The Rockets have run their winning streak to five games, and in the process have climbed back to .500. Their NBA leading defense during the win streak gave up more points than usual, but that is largely due to about eight minutes of the fourth quarter being garbage time.
We’re beginning to see how the Rockets might come together with a defense-oriented approach, and a multi-faceted attack, with nearly any player being capable of scoring and contributing to a group effort at putting points on the board. Christian Wood might be the focus, but tonight eleven Rockets scored, and five players scored thirteen or more. (Thirteen isn’t a special number, it’s just the lowest total of the double-digit scorers.)
Imagine how likely that would have seemed before the start of this season?
This game proceeded oddly, by quarter. Let’s take a brief look.
The current Rockets starting alignment of Wall, Oladipo, Tate, Tucker and Wood just isn’t working. The combination of Tate and Tucker early in a game, combined with the Rockets reluctance to attack inside, or run anything other that ISO, or shooting (and bricking) quick threes is a problem. So far it’s lead to early leads for opponents, who run off the Rockets misses, and expose their worst aspect - transition defense.
Tonight the janky starting attack lead to 3-12 3pt shooting, and for long stretches New Orleans lead by around ten points. Then the bench came in. From that point the 6’5” Assault team began cooling off the Pelicans and the Rockets trailed by eight at the end of the period.
The Bench Brigade kept up the pressure early, and the Rockets starters went berserk in the quarter. Shots that clanked in the first went in, and the Rockets attacked quickly off Pelican misses resulting from good defense. The quarter began with the Rockets down eight. It ended, 48 points later, with the Rockets up 18. This is a 26 point swing, for those scoring at home. The Pelicans were largely shut down, their 35pt first quarter outburst muted to 22 in the second frame.
The Pelicans simply appeared to quit with about four minutes left. An emblematic moment of this is the Rockets, with 3.8 seconds left, being allowed to roll the basektball, without the clock starting with a pickup, all the way from the Rockets baseline all the way to the three point line of the Pelicans basket. Whereupon Victor Oladipo calmly splashed a three.
Stan Van Gundy must have had a Van Gundian rant at half-time, as the listless Pelicans got after it in the third. They made everything, and Zion Williamson (PF Shaq) was unstoppable. He made shots, or he got his misses, and the Rockets weren’t able to contain him. The fact that he ended the night with only 19 attempts is silly. He’s the one player no one has an answer for, not the Rockets, with Wood being overpowered, and Cousins racking up the fouls. At one point in the third the Rockets lead, which had ballooned to over twenty was down to eight. A series of silly fouls by Jaxon Hayes, including a dubious Flagrant 1 on Cousins shooting a three pointer, kept New Orleans at bay until Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate could broaden the lead back out to fifteen.
The lead wouldn’t shrink much in the fourth period, and the game went into unofficial garbage time early, as it became apparent that Zion couldn’t overcome the Rockets combined scoring output. The Rockets ended up playing their entire bench at least five minutes each as Rodion Kurucs, Mason Jones and Ben McLemore briefly appeared.
There’s not a ton more to be said, other than the Rockets bench (maybe without the relentless David Nwaba for some time with an ankle injury) simply destroys opponents with defense and energy. They also have a clever action with Eric Gordon where he comes down the floor a bit late, and takes a handoff around the three point line with the other Rocket serving as a screener for Gordon to take a long, but wide open, three point shot.
The next game, to possibly gain a winning record, is Monday against the Thunder.
Should Tate and Tucker start together?
This poll is closed
No, it should be House in place of Tate.
Tate and House should start.
Both should start on the bench.
Complaining about a five game win streak seems churlish. Leave well enough alone.
Rick Carlisle would start clones of Tate and Tucker for a TuckerTate parade.