Inside the five-game winning streak, the Houston Rockets’ three-point shooting has skyrocketed because of Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks. Within the win streak, the Rockets are ranked sixth and are shooting 40.5 percent from the three-point line per NBA stats.
Things were a struggle for the Rockets’ shooting efforts in the beginning of the season. But ever since Brooks and Mathews have entered the rotation, Coach Silas has taken notice of the sizzling shooting of the two. Silas said:
“It’s huge. There were games in the beginning of the season where we weren’t breaking double digit three-point makes. So now we’re right around 50 percent of our shots in three, which is really good. And we’re making a good amount of them, and those two guys have a lot to do with it.”
Yes, the Rockets did struggle shooting the three-ball in the 15-game losing streak, but Silas had to get creative by giving other players on the Rockets playing time. Brooks and Mathews got off to an uneasy start, which is one of the reasons they have a close relationship. After practices, they’ll host shooting competitions with each other. Brooks said:
“Yeah, Garrison is a really good player. He pushes me everyday in practice. And we push each other so we can get better. We do shooting competitions all the time in practice. And I think doing things like that builds chemistry and it also builds a competitive edge to keep pushing each other to get better and grow in every aspect.”
Brooks and Mathews have common journeys inside the NBA. Brooks was a sharpshooter for the Houston Cougars in college and shot a career 39.7 percent from three. After having a career high of 13.4 points per game for his final season at UH, Brooks decided to take a leap to the NBA.
Brooks felt completely confident after a huge game versus the Kentucky Wildcats, as he led all scorers with 20 points and six made threes on 50 percent shooting from deep. I remember watching the game from my phone while driving as a Lyft driver and going back-and-forth with the passenger because he was rooting for Kentucky. Like today, Brooks didn’t need much space take contested deep attempts from three. Brooks had unbelievable range in college.
He did go undrafted, which was surprising after shooting the three-ball at 39.0 percent in his final season with the Cougars. Brooks was with the Atlanta Hawks on an Exhibit 10 but was sent down to their G-League affiliate College Park Skyhawks. He averaged 10.7 points per game and shot the three-ball at 39.7 percent off 5.7 attempts per game.
After that first year, Brooks reported to the Rio Grande Vipers camp. He started to open eyes because of his ability to catch the ball anywhere and make an uneasy shot. He shot a blistering 37.5 percent from three while averaging 16.8 points per game. While playing in the G-league, he played with Kevin Porter Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. too.
With another G-league season ending, Brooks already had an offer to play overseas with New Zealand. But no NBA offers. As his mom and dad were dropping him off at the airport, the family became emotional. His dad and mom would drive two hours to watch him play basketball in Houston while he was in college.
As Brooks was headed to New Zealand on the plane, his agent EJ Kusnyer called him so he could get on the next flight to Houston, as the Rockets were looking to sign him to a two-way contract. Brooks finished his first season as a Rocket with 11.2 points per contest and shooting 40.6 from the field and 38.2 percent at the three-point line. Dylan Tesch, a former Cougar basketball staffer, said:
“Armoni has always put in the time, work, and effort to be a great shooter and player. Love seeing him make those big time shots. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me at all. He has earned everything, and I’m glad he continues to make the most of his opportunities.”
“As far as grit, I feel like he’s always had that, college might’ve just added to it. Playing for UH, you have to have grit. That’s what that program is built on.”
Brooks started this season off with minimum minutes. He was not in the Rockets’ rotation, but stayed focused by helping his teammates when they were struggling. Silas had a tough time not playing Brooks, as he knew that his best shooter was on the bench.
Brooks finally got his first complete action versus the Boston Celtics. He had 17 points off of five made threes. In five games, Brooks is averaging 21.7 points and shooting 40 percent at the three-point line per 100 possessions (per NBA stats).
Brooks has become dangerous around curl, ghost, and flare actions from deep. Silas has Brooks moving in certain directions off screens so he can confuse defenses. The goal is to not keep Brooks stagnant on offense, as he is dangerous without the ball.
In the last five game, Brooks is shooting the three-ball at 36.8 percent in the catch-and-shoot method. He is even averaging 1.29 points per possession when scoring off screens, which puts him in the 94.9 percentile per Synergy. The basketball world is starting to see more of Brooks’ shooting, as oftentimes it looks like he’ll never miss.
Former head coach Kelvin Sampson of Cougars basketball said:
“There is a lot of guys who it shoot it, but they don’t make it. Armoni makes it. There are plays that I ran for Armoni, I haven’t ran since he left because he was the only one who could run those plays.”
Mathews played for the Washington Wizards before Stone considered him on the roster. He was cut after their preseason. While playing for the Wizards, Mathews averaged 5.4 points per game and shot the three-ball at 40 percent in two-years with the team.
Like Brooks, he went undrafted and played in the G-League too. With the G-league affiliate of the Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go, he averaged 11.4 points per game and shot the three-ball at 30.4 percent. But Mathews really impressed Silas and Stone with his outstanding play on the Vipers, as he averaged 19.4 points per contest.
Mathews has great size and athleticism because of his football days, as he was two-star athlete at Franklin High School. Defensively, Mathews is showing he can stay in front of his man on one-on-one defense, which allows him to create steals. On the season, Mathews has a defensive rating of 104.6. His versatility on offense and defense has been incredible. Jae’ Sean Tate said:
“His energy and effort he has been playing with, I’m happy for him. A guy that comes onto a team a couple of weeks ago and finds his role and is succeeding in it.”
Mathews was overlooked coming out of his former college, Lipscomb University. In his final season as a senior, Mathews averaged 20.8 points per contest and shot the three-ball 40.3 percent, which led him to Player of the Year in Atlantic Sun Conference.
But Mathews has been the underdog in the NBA, but will possibly find a home with the Rockets, as he is averaging 11.2 points per contest with a shooting stat line of 47.3/39.7/78.6, including a true shooting percentage of 66.1 percent.
He has the green light to shoot anywhere and with less space on contested shots. On catch-and-shoot efforts, Mathews is shooting 38.3 percent from the three-point line.
Mathews and Brooks have become a nightmare for opposing coaches, as zones no longer work on the Rockets. Houston is becoming more dangerous on offense, which is a great sign for the ‘Baby Rockets’. Thanks to Brooks and Mathews, the Rockets’ shooting will continue to improve.