This was an odd game. It started much like the first game of this season, with the Timberwolves serving notice on the Rockets that they weren’t the same sick puppies anymore, that they had some real bite.
There wasn’t much defense played by the Rockets in the first half, with Minnesota scoring 42 and 38 points in the first and second quarters, respectively. It’s a different world in the NBA now, where 80 point halves are not only possible, but relatively common. I think when the Spurs played the Nets in the NBA Finals they scored a total of 80 points in one of the games (I kid, or Kidd, but that was a memorably brutal series to watch).
The TWolves weren’t terribly interested in defense either, as the Rockets managed 68 at the half, which would normally indicate a team in the lead, or at least close, rather than 12 points down.
I’ve said several times that the Rockets defense becomes frazzled when an opponent runs more than a single action against them. This remains true, any sort of compound actions, or complex movement, still works. But there’s another thing that is at least as effective, and that’s simply running at them off both makes and misses, which Minnesota did to great effect in the first half. A huge percentage of the Twoofs’ made baskets were simply layups.
Anyhow, halftime mercifully arrived, and the Rockets got a chance to regroup. Except the third quarter didn’t go much better, and when it ended, the Rockets trailed by 24 points. Ho hum, another blowout against another good team. Perhaps there would be some interesting plays?
There would be!
The interesting stuff wasn’t just clever Alperen Sengun no-look-behind-the-back passes for dunks, or Kenyon Martin Jr. slams where it looks like he’s on a ladder, and pauses mid-air, before climbing higher.
No, tonight the Timberwolves would remind many Rockets fans of the James Harden era, where the Rockets were capable of building, and then blowing, a big lead against anyone. (It was one of the things that I think secretly hurt them in the playoffs. Instead of taking the 4th quarter off, and letting the bench finish out the win, the starters would be recalled, to prevent the game slipping away. MDA got a lot of blame for that, but the strength of the bench should come under fire as well.)
Anyhow, Minnesota appeared to call game with an entire quarter remaining. The Rockets decided to hang 40 on them, with a Josh Christopher scoring explosion, a much better effort from Kevin Porter Jr. moving the ball, and Jalen Green scoring 30+ points without seeming to expend much effort in so doing. And one more thing, Alperen Sengun claiming the matchup with Karl-Anthony Towns one on one. Not many rookies would ask for that, at the half, but Alpie did, and the fortunes of the Rockets started to turn late in the game.
The game would go from a double dozen Timberwolves’ lead to single digits with time remaining. Minnesota was almost certainly going to win this one, but that wasn’t enough for assistant referee Brandon Schwab, who made a series of truly horrific calls to close the game.
How bad were they? Stephen Silas got ejected he was so angry. Let me repeat that, the preternaturally placid, and pleasant, Silas was perturbed enough to run across the court in order to get tossed. He’ll almost certainly be fined by the NBA, but he wasn’t wrong. Schwab needs a timeout from reffing, maybe an ejection. In a league embracing gambling with both arms and legs, any sort of late and close oddness is a problem.
This isn’t to make the case the Rockets should have won, because the team doesn’t want to win. The chances of them winning this were small. This is me worrying about something odd and alarming in a game most NBA watchers wouldn’t know or care about.
Anyhow, that was three quarters of one game, almost one quarter of an entirely different one, (and around two to three minutes of...something bad.)
The Rookie Rockets showed well tonight. Green went 12-18 for 31pts. Sengun had 14pts, 15rbs, 4 ast. But tonight’s Rando was a Rocket! Josh Christopher, Jalen’s Buddy, dropped 30pts in 30 minutes, going 11-14, and finishing through rather a lot of contact. Jay Gup’s previous career high was 23pts, so he smashed that tonight in a fantastic half of basketball, roughly.
Congratulations Jalen’s Friend, you appear to be a very promising NBA player after all! You are also the Rampaging Rando!
Whose Friend Should Be Drafted Next?
This poll is closed
Kevin Porter Jr.’s