Recently the Houston Rockets have run out on the hardwood and put together strong efforts in hopes to steal a win from teams fueled with championship aspirations, but Wednesday night was different. Houston went out and lost to a Detroit Pistons team that has been just as bad as them, falling 112-104 at the Toyota Center.
Heading into the matchup with the Pistons, the thought process of Rocket fans was that they’d pose a challenge to their tougher opponents and then have their way with those that reside with them at the bottom of the standings. But the loss to Detroit made something clear, and it’s that Houston isn’t good enough to count wins before they happen.
On paper, the Rockets are more talented than most struggling teams. They also are in a unique situation where they could end up in the sweepstakes for Paolo Banchero, who’s projected to be a top-two pick in the draft, despite having an abundance of young talent on the team. But let’s not forget, this is a team that had the worst record in the league last year and was able to acquire Jalen Green with a top-two pick because of it. The rebuild has promise, but it currently consists of a roster that is going to have ugly losses like the one suffered in their latest outing.
Whether they’ll get credit or not, that win was earned by the Pistons and a large part of it was due to Jerami Grant, who scored 35 points on 12-23 shooting. He was without question the best player on the floor and there was nothing that Houston was able to throw at him to slow down his onslaught. They also played with patience on the offensive end, as they only turned the ball over 14 times, piled up 23 assists and shot 12-18 from the free throw line,
Houston on other hand wasn’t bad at all, they picked up 17 assists as a team and knocked down 12 shots from beyond the arc. They turned the ball over a bit, but it was only 16 times which is an improvement compared to the rest of their outings. What killed them was the charity stripe, as usual. The Rockets only hit 22-34 of their free-throws, which is a large reason why they were defeated. That’s 12 points that they left at the line, which is a tough pill to swallow for a team that only lost by 8.
It was a game that started with a dosage of Christian Wood but then eventually saw Green start to get in the zone before then they started to lose control in the final quarter, but then Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae-Sean Tate locked in on the defensive end. They helped the Rockets come roaring back into striking distance, where they’d cut the lead to as low as one, which was matched by a Detroit attack that saw brilliance and patience from Cade Cunningham.
While Cunningham finished with 20 points on 8-18 shooting, Green finished with 23 points on 8-20 shooting, as sparks flew around each time the top draft picks made a play. Green was the highest scorer for Houston and was aided by Wood, who dropped 20 and pulled down 9 rebounds alongside KPJ, who had 18 points and 5 assists.
The debate regarding Green and Cunningham was going to fly the second after the game concluded, that was a known fact. But what was unexpected was that the topic was about composure and maturity, which Piston fans used to prop up their franchise cornerstone. They alluded to the play where Green drove, finished a dunk and yelled in the face of his fellow draft class member, which left him tagged with a technical foul. Whether it’s fair to draw much from that moment is a debate for another day, but it was an unnecessary action when considering he’d just tied the game up in the third quarter. Moments like that are a key example of a young team doing dumb things, and it’s exactly why, regardless of how bad the opposing team is, the Rockets are a process and not a guarantee.
Houston is now 1-10, and in their next four games they’ll battle Portland, Phoenix, Memphis and Oklahoma City. Out of those four teams, the most likely victory is without question the OKC Thunder who are now 4-6 and look drastically better than when Houston first played them. Don’t go looking past them at the better opponents, because everyone did with Detroit and well, here we are.