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Rockets fall 140-132 to Lakers in MLK finale

Season Highs for Lebron and Sengun

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
No continuation for you, Alpie!
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

This game, despite being yet another Rockets loss, was marked, and made somewhat more special by thoughts of time.

It was the last game on a holiday that commemorates Martin Luther King Jr., a day that in the sports world, belongs to the NBA. If was a game that featured possibly the best player of all time in the NBA, at 38, in his 20th season. A 38 year old all time great, against a Rockets lineup roughly in their 20th year on earth. It’s a milepost marking the inevitable conclusion of Lebron James’ journey, and the beginning of a voyage we can only hope is nearly so successful for this very young Rockets team.

This game was actually, for the most part fun. Enjoyable. A game that might bring amusement to those who aren’t die hard Rockets fans.

The Rockets best player, Alperen Sengun, got to show the NBA world what he can do with the whole Association watching.

Yes, as predicted, it was a Laker win. As predicted, it was a Lebron James showcase. But it was a showcase of just why the 38 year old Lebron James is arguably the greatest player in NBA history. He scored 48 points, had 9 boards and 8 assists, and only 11 of those points were from the free throw line. James went 16 of 26, and 5 of 10 from three.

For some reason the Rockets insisted on Jabari Smith Jr, play Lebron on defense with no help all night long. Smith collected a bunch of personal fouls, and Lebron collected a bunch of points, but somehow the Rockets were more scared of Wenyen Gabriel, Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant than the man closing in on Kareem Abdul Jabar’s scoring record.

Jabari Smith Jr. also informed James that Lebron’s first game came against Jabari Smith Sr, his dad. Lebron has been very good, for a very long time. Perhaps the Rockets will get the chance to draft such a generational talent.

Perhaps they already have.

Until the fourth quarter though, the Rockets 20 year old point center (please?) Alperen Sengun matched King James. Sengun scored 20 points in the first half alone, and managed to add 13 more in the second half. It could have, and should have, been more, but because the Rockets don’t let Sengun initiate the offense, it wasn’t.

Alpie also grabbed 15 rebounds, dished 6 assists and blocked four shots. The complaints about his defense simply don’t make sense to me at this point. I’m not sure what other people are seeing. Sengun mostly looks bad when other teams get past their perimeter defender and have Sengun trying to cover them, and his own assignment.

Yes, like most of the Rockets, he sometimes loses focus, or doesn’t get back on defense quickly enough. That’s not the same as being a bad defender. That’s being part of a bad defense, a defense that will perhaps break records for being one of the worst in NBA history, especially in transition.

What else did we see tonight? Eric Gordon doing a fairly decent job as a point guard, and understanding that a two man game with Sengun is the best offense on the Rockets. Gordon dished 8 assists to 0 turnovers. Whatever went wrong in the Rockets second half, it wasn’t down to Gordon. Hopefully the Lakers were looking at Eric and realizing that a guard who can shoot, pass, and play defense might be just the thing they need.

Jalen Green had a down, up, down, shooting night. Many seem irate at Green, but I’m less so. I think that he’s been told to put the ball up, and he does. If his bad habits aren’t corrected by those who are meant to be instructing or leading him, he’s probably not going to change them, at his age. Green finished with 23 points, but on 7-20 shooting. Again, though, he’s a young player, and seems in terms of his outlook, younger than some others his age. That’s not a huge worry, as people mature at different rates, but it’s hard to see that the current approach is doing him any favors in that regard.

Age and time seem a theme for this game. 20 years in the NBA for Lebron James. 20 years on the earth for Alperen Sengun and roughly all the Rockets prospects. What would the Rockets be like with an all time great like Lebron to lead it, on the court and off? To demand accountability, and show just how large the gap is between high potential, and high achievement?

The Rockets obviously don’t have Lebron saying these things, but they need someone with the stature, or even simply the will, to do so, and sooner rather than later.

There are other considerations, complaints, thoughts, but not new ones.



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