Despite playing without Christian Wood (ankle sprain) and John Wall (sore knee), the Rockets built a substantial lead against the Pistons, leading by as much as 20 points in the second quarter.
The Rockets lead ballooned thanks to strong energy from the Rockets reserves. Sterling Brown, David Nwaba and Ben McLemore became the first Rockets trio to score in double figures off the bench this season and their lead grew as they entered the game. When Nwaba and McLemore checked in with 5:48 in the first quarter, the team enjoyed a seven-point lead. By the end of the first quarter, the lead was 13.
The positives from the bench were also joined by veterans Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker, who both had strong offensive nights. Gordon led all Rockets with 20 and was the primary ball handler for the Rockets tonight. Meanwhile, after many offensive woes and leaving Wednesday’s game with ab discomfort, Tucker matched a season-high in scoring with 15 points on 5-8 shooting.
The Pistons were able to jump back into the game after a sluggish start with accurate three-point shooting and capitalizing on the Rockets’ deflation of energy, which began once the Rockets got comfortable up 20. The Pistons shot 15-32, good for 46.9%, from beyond the three-point line.
Wayne Ellington was Detroit’s most efficient scorer, scoring 18 points on 6-10 shooting from deep. Jerami Grant got off to a poor start, but found his three ball late in the game, shooting 3-6 from three.
The Pistons eventually toppled over the Rockets and took a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Rockets let the Pistons back into the game with disjointed offensive efforts from Victor Oladipo and DeMarcus Cousins. Oladipo struggled to generate and create without Christian Wood on the floor and shot just 4-16 from the field for 13 points. Cousins, who got the start for the injured Wood, was strong on the boards but scored just five points on 2-16 shooting.
However, the Rockets’ second unit was able to yank the lead right back.
An 18-6 run gave the Rockets the lead for good, with all but two points during the run coming from Brown, Nwaba and McLemore.
The Pistons were able to stick around despite missing four consecutive free throws down the stretch.
Blake Griffin nailed a three from the top of the key to cut the lead to one. Then, a Rockets miss from Eric Gordon put the ball back in Detroit’s hands down one with 3.8 seconds left.
Then, a drive by Grant was a second too short as the ball stayed in his hands just after the clock expired and the Rockets ran away with a win.
It’s hard to tell whether the Rockets deserved to win this game or not. If you take the efforts in the first quarter and the bench in the fourth quarter, that answer is yes. But if you look at the whole game, the answer is no. It’s just the Rockets’ luck that they faced the worst team in the league, who had multiple chances to put the Rockets away and failed to do so.
Despite a frustrating game, the Rockets ended up on top. With wins coming so scarcely for the team lately, you’ll take what you can get.
The Rockets will be back on the floor tomorrow night against the Dallas Mavericks on the road. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CT.