P.J. Tucker spoke on the qualities that made Stephen Silas the “coolest coach” he has ever seen. He said Silas is always cool. At times it may seem like he is nonchalant, but that is his personality. Tucker spoke on Silas’ characteristics eight hours before Monday’s 124-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Now at 0-2 to start the season, Silas needs to sustain his mentality to remain cool.
This is not what Silas envisioned when he took to helms to become the next head coach of the Houston Rockets. He did not expect to get caught between the franchise’s dispute with their two stars. He did not expect to have Russell Westbrook traded less than a month into his job. And he did not expect to lose half of his rotation players due to COVID-19 protocols.
What Silas did expect was to coach a competitive team. A team who will put themselves in a position to win regardless of the circumstances. This is the team Silas saw during their overtime loss in Portland to the Trailblazers on Saturday. But inside Ball Arena in Denver, Silas saw the complete opposite.
“We obviously did not play well. To me, it looked like a team that hasn’t been able to practice. They [the Nuggets] are a hard team to play. This is a growing experience for all of us, and we have to get better — especially on the defensive end. When you have nine guys and doing things on the fly because you don’t have practice time, it can get ugly against a good team. And that is what happened tonight.” — Silas
Although they played a team that operates at a slower pace than the Trailblazers, competing at an altitude of 5,280 feet could have been a reason why the shorthanded Rockets appeared fatigued faster in Denver.
The Nuggets’ scored their first points of the night on a three-foot hook shot from Nikola Jokić. It was the first of 11 offensive rebounds the Rockets allowed.
This would have been the perfect game for the Rockets to have DeMarcus Cousins on the floor. His size would have made it tough for Jokić despite his transgressions as a defender. Here is an example where the Rockets were outmatched when trying to contain Jokić.
Sterling Brown is an excellent defender and the help defense by David Nwaba led to Jokic’s missed attempt. But where the Rockets fell short on this defensive possession was giving up another second-chance point. Without anyone to match the size of Jokic, the 7-foot big man had an easy tip-in. This was a constant theme for the Rockets, as Jokic recorded his 42nd career triple-double of 19 points, 18 assists and 12 rebounds.
Denver’s next bucket was an alley-oop from Jamal Murray to Gary Harris. The defensive collapse was the first of many that resulted in the Nuggets shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from deep on the night.
The only positive Silas received from his team was the production of “Hardwood.” For the second consecutive game, the James Harden and Christian Wood paring did all they could to keep the Rockets above waters — which includes accounting for 48 of Houston’s 60 first-half points.
While Harden scored a team-high 30, Wood exhibited the talents that made him a sought-after free agent. He connected on four of his five shot attempts from the outside en route to a 23-point outing. If he was not draining shots from behind the arc, Wood caught lob-passes from Harden — which accounted for three of Harden’s eight assists.
“He [Christian Wood] is very good at knocking down shots and rolling to the basket and finishing. To have a big guy on the court to knock down 3’s is a huge advantage. It gives us more spacing and more opportunities to drive and to be free.” — Harden
Dropping the first two games of his coaching career is far from what Silas expected. He expects to have his full team back for Wednesday’s practice — a day ahead of their New Year’s Eve showdown against the Sacramento Kings.
Before the Rockets’ season opener on Saturday, Silas reminisced on the lesson he learned from his father, Paul Silas. As a head coach, regardless of the circumstances, “you are in the winning business,” Silas said. Hopefully, with a full roster taking the floor inside the Toyota Center on Thursday, Silas can finally enter the winning business as the Rockets’ head coach.
“We expect to play well and expect to win. We do not expect to go out and have a performance like we did tonight. We just have to learn from it. Grow from it. And get better from it. There are a lot of things that could or could not contribute to the game tonight. But I choose to believe that we could have played better. And should have played better.” — Silas