This was a fun game, except for the ending. The Rockets played some of their best basketball all season, and despite not winning, held a team averaging 109 to 105. That may not seem like much, but it’s a far cry from the 35+ point quarters the Rockets were routinely surrendering not that long ago.
The Rockets might have won this one, but the Warriors experience, and the Rockets inexperience in closing out games really showed at the end. Yes, the Rockets botched their look with the game tied 103. Yes, Steph Curry made a last second fall away to win it for the Warriors. Yes, it was a push off, but not much of one, and not one I’d like to see called at the end of games. I’d rather the Warriors patented dribble-hand-off-into-backwards-moving-butt-screen play be called on occasion, honestly, since they run it about 20 times a game.
Of course a player celebrates making a last second shot, of course the crowd loves it. But Golden State, do you see James Harden? Chris Paul? Clint Capela? PJ Tucker? Maybe. just maybe, settle down a little. This seems just a bit of overcompensation against a 14-32 team.
That aside, it was a fun game, and one a more experienced Rockets team probably wins. This is not a more experienced Rockets team, and this is not even a Rockets team where everyone has a pretty good idea who should be on the floor to close a game like this.
Who should it be, closing a game like this? Everyone has opinions on the proper mix of players. Let’s run through them.
Eric Gordon? Certainly. He’s the best two-way player on the team.
Kevin Porter Jr? Yes. His overall game is really making a leap. At 21. His defense, a shot by a Hall of Fame player notwithstanding, was good all night.
Christian Wood? Also yes. He’s the Rockets only real big right now.
Alperen Sengun? Probably not right now. He appears to have hit the rookie wall, and is currently bringing less to the table. This is not surprising. The Rockets have already played 20 more games than the entire Turkish Basketball League regular season. When people who love Sengun’s potential talk about fatigue, and building up conditioning, taking it slow, this is why. An NBA season has more games, played more frequently, at a higher pace, with more travel, than any other league in the world. And it’s not particularly close. )
Kevin Martin Jr? Maybe. He’s springy. He’s active. He blocks shots. He makes stuff happen. He also just loses men on drives alarmingly often.
JaeSean Tate? Also maybe. He’s a good defender, but not a shooter, really.
Josh Christopher? Maybe as well. He’s a great defender, with some real lapses. His time is coming, where he rarely leaves the floor, I think.
Jalen Green? Well. That’s a good question. It was another tough scoring night for Green. He certainly should get more calls on drives, as right now appears to be getting fouled at the rim by nearly everyone. I’d say he’s shooting about 30% of the free throws an established player probably shoot on similar plays. His defense has improved, versus earlier in the season. He needs to learn how to handle close and late situations, and the only way to get experience with it is to play in those situations. Yet he’s shooting really, really, poorly right now.
(Foul calling really is an amazing system in the NBA. Seniority for players means the rules are either actually enforced, or in some cases, enforced exceedingly favorably, for big stars. If a player lacks seniority, he can expect far fewer calls in his favor, and far more against him. And then, in the playoffs, a different standard altogether is enforced.)
Garrison Matthews? Maybe.
Wait a minute. We’ve now got let’s see...nine players who are either a “yes” to play close and late, or a definite “maybe”. That will go to 10 when Sengun is looking good again. As you probably know, you can only play five at a time. This is actually a conundrum, and one where the coach will be constantly second guessed. The best teams have a closing five, and have a very clear idea who that will be except in unusual circumstances. The Rockets have a closing nine? Ten? More?
That’s a problem with rebuilding. You don’t know who you have, or what they’ll do on a given night.
This was a tough one to lose, as it’s always nice to beat Golden State, maybe next time they’ll hold a lead and walk out happy. It’s a long, painful, process.
Sentimentometer Light Years Edition
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What does this even mean? Is this in the S1?
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