I wrote about the rivalry aspect of this game, if you’d like to check that out. This will be more about the game itself.
The Houston Rockets had used their small ball/Pocket Rockets lineup before their game against the Utah Jazz, but it was definitely that night in Salt Lake City that turned a series of unfortunate injuries into an experiment that has most of the NBA world intrigued.
On that night, the Rockets, sans James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Clint Capela, walked into SLC on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the red-hot Jazz behind 50 points from Eric Gordon. The small ball lineup has only gotten more attention since, with Houston beating Dallas, Charlotte, New Orleans, and the Los Angeles Lakers without the services of anyone over 6-7.
We saw the flip side of the experiment in Phoenix. The entire point of trading Capela was to get his defender out of Westbrook’s path to the basket. Against the Suns with no Russ and no one on the Rockets besides Harden hitting shots, the result was a sobering reminder that Houston will struggle even more on back-to-backs now.
Luckily, the Rockets only have two games before the All Star Break and they aren’t a back-to-back. The bad news is that they are against this big Utah team and a Celtics squad that can also play small ball. These should be fun tests for the Pocket Rockets.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT on NBA TV