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Rockets bad start dooms team in Memphis 113-106

Maybe the Rockets won’t play in Memphis on the SNOARBTB sometime?

Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies
The days of dominance are coming. But not yet.
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Once again, the Rockets play in Memphis on the second night of a back to back. Once again, the Grizzlies have had extra rest. The outcome was the same in terms of win/loss but the Rockets effort was definitely better, with the final score being 113-106.

Despite the “schedule loss” conditions, the game might have been better for the Rockets if they hadn’t started and continued to play a lineup that demonstrably, fifteen consecutive losses demonstrably, does not work. Yes, tonight we again saw Christian Wood, JaeSean Tate, Daniel Theis start a game. Again, the game started with a painfully familiar curb stomping, with Memphis hanging 40pts on the Rockets in the opening period.

The second quarter saw Theis removed and the Rockets played it much closer, and stopped the somewhat odd Memphis scoring juggernaut, which was fueled mostly by deadly three point shooting off of offensive rebounds.

In the game thread I had a discussion with “Steve McG”, where we speculated on Stephen Silas still having some “assistant coach” traits - that is, being especially reactive to a given opponent. (As opposed to his opposite, Mike D’Antoni, who generally refused to react to his opponent, offensively at least, in any form.)

In this case, the appearance of Theis seemed to be a presumptive counter to Steven Adams and the bench bigs of Memphis. The idea presumably being that the Rockets needed Theis to match up with the rugged Adams.

Only it didn’t work that way. Adams had his way, until being hurt, with both Wood and Theis. And the Rockets suffered once again from an offense clogged by too many players that do not pose enough of an offensive threat from the perimeter. I really don’t need to see defenders crashing the offense on the perimeter because they know most Rockets players there can’t really punish them off a drive, or pass. Five out doesn’t work with two centers. Unless...

Unless one of those centers is Point Center Alperen Sengun. The Rockets made a fine comeback in the second half, with Wood and Sengun playing what I believe are their highest number of minutes together on the court at the same time. It worked. Memphis had real difficulty controlling the two of them.

Partly that might be due to the absence of Adams who left with an injury, but it’s also due to the fact that Sengun simply makes offense happen in a way that a team that currently utterly lacks a point guard desperately needs. DJ Augustin simply looks for his own shot far too much to be of any use as a starting PG. He should try to play less like Steph, and more like Ish. The team needs a distributor, not his shooting.

Silas is a new head coach, and is learning, just like the Rockets of the future. But I think he really has all the data he needs on lineups with Wood, Theis and Tate. Individually these players are all good. Together, they doom the Rockets offense. In Silas’ defense, the team plays really hard, all the time, and he’s making adjustments quicker than earlier in the year. It’s also tough to run a team when your best available distributor is 19 year old center, who, understandably, mixes rookies mistakes in with moments of brilliance.

This is the sort of loss the Rockets want this season - a good comeback, solid effort, and some growth, especially in the intriguing possibility of Wood and Sengun playing together. To fans accustomed to winning, it’s tough to see games like this slip away.

I’m more convinced than ever about the bright future of the Rockets. The injuries may have hampered individual wins, but they’ve also paved the way for individual development, and minutes for players like Sengun, Martin, Christopher and Brooks.

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