The Houston Rockets walked into the belly of the beast on Sunday night when stepping inside Staples Center and, in turn, were feasted on by the Lebron James led Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s safe to say that everyone that wasn’t blinded with fan-filled delusion expected L. A to cruise past Houston and weren’t surprised that they did, but what was surprising was just how bad the Rockets looked during spans of that game.
They turned the ball over 27 times, they only knocked down 15-29 of their free throws, and went an abysmal 6-28 from beyond the arc. It was the type of ugly that at one point had them down by 28 points with their only lead of the game coming on a Jalen Green free throw to put them up 1-0 at the start of the night.
That game-opening point scored by Jalen Green to open the contest was one of seven that he’d score all night. The eight shots he attempted were the lowest throughout his eight career games and it was also his lowest point total. He was able to dish out five rebounds and five assists, but overall, it was an overwhelmingly silent night from the rookie.
To say it’s been a struggle for Jalen Green to find his footing would be a fair, even accurate statement. But really, the Rockets as a whole have struggled to find their identity.
When Houston brings the ball down the floor, it’s usually being handled by Kevin Porter Jr., who then gives the ball up as the offense begins to set itself up. But what happens next? It feels like there is a lack of consistency or creativity in their offensive game plan because there are no convincing backdoor cuts, minimal movements to free up shooters, and little to no situations where a defender is left having to decide which scoring threat is more lethal.
Right now, it feels like the Rockets are trying to get a win in chess without even attempting to appreciate the game - they constantly are attempting to do that one trick when you win in four moves and once that plan is foiled, it’s game over.
If you look at KPJ in the fourth quarter in their most recent outing when he put a series of moves on Kent Bazemore then tossed an alley-oop to Kenyon Martin Jr, there was something different about him. Porter Jr. looked like he did last year, where the vision of him playing point guard originated from. That’s because he was playing not only with a lob threat, but also without the mental burden of forcing himself to facilitate.
Passing is supposed to be natural, but with a Houston offense that seems to always either be stagnant or running a pick-and-roll, he hasn’t had the opportunity to just go out there and play loose.
Although they’ve been in an offense that’s been a standstill, Porter Jr.. and Green could both strongly benefit from more consistent isolation possessions because they each have shown a knack for making tough shots over defenders or creating enough space to create opportunities for themselves or others; they also could both desperately use a boost of confidence right about now.
Houston’s next outing will again be against the Lakers, which represents an opportunity for them to show growth. They played poorly on the defensive end in the first half but buckled down throughout the second, which only allowed L. A to score 95 total points. The question will be can they give that same defensive effort while also putting together an offensive influx?
The ongoing rebuild this season was always going to be a struggle, but playing a team two games in a row is always an opportunity for growth.