The Houston Rockets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-114 to end their 13-game-losing streak. Jalen Green was the story of this game, scoring a career-high 42 points. Alperen Sengun had another excellent game, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Tari Eason had the best game at the second start of his career. Eason stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, nine rebounds, 4 steals, and three assists.
Scoring and good stats are great, but the Rockets will win more games when they out-hustle their opponents every game
All the stats above look great, but the main reason the Rockets won Monday night's game was that they out-hustled the Timberwolves and played hard throughout the game. Nothing encapsulates that more than Green's block late in the game. With the Rockets up 107 to 100, Green moved to the free throw to try and stop an Anthony Edwards drive but was still able to get back out to the 3-point line and block a D'Angelo Russell 3-point attempt with 1:36 left in the game.
This has been Jalen Green best overall game of his career. He has scored 40 before but factor in his effort on defense, clutch shots, and taking care of the ball this is his best overall game pic.twitter.com/zIWAQs07O3— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) January 24, 2023
Green seemed a lot more engaged in the Monday night win, which was a good sign for the Rockets after a lackluster showing late in their loss Saturday night and throughout this losing streak. With Green being the number 2 overall pick and expected franchise player, he has to lead by example when it comes to effort.
The Rockets are not the most talented, best-shooting, or most experienced team. That leaves their margin for error slim at best. The Rockets are at their best when they play loose and hustle all over the court. The one advantage the Rockets have on most teams is their athleticism. Last night we saw players like Eason, who only knows one speed, which is all out pedal to the floor, affect every part of the game. The play below sums up Eason's game perfectly. They never gave up on a play and fought until the whistle blew.
Jae'Sean Tate is another player who never stops hustling, and his games missed were a more significant issue than most people realize. The key for the Rockets is to get everyone on the team to buy into playing hard every game. You're going to miss shots, and you're going to have nights where you dont get the calls, but you can't let more experienced teams outwork you. The Rockets have improved in one area of playing hard: rebounding.
More effort is needed on the defensive end
Even this season, with losses piling up, they have been near the top regarding rebounding. That same mentality must also happen on the opposite side of the court. Too often on defense, the Rockets are caught flat-footed and dont give the extra effort on switches you need to be a good defensive team.
The Rockets did give up 114 points last night, but several of those points came late when the Rockets did not want to foul them and let them score two points instead of giving up a 3-pointer. During the 13-game losing streak, the Rockets were giving up over 120 points a game and some games, over 130. However, the effort was much better in the fourth quarter than in most games during the losing streak. The Rockets gave multiple efforts on switches and forced Minnesota to scramble at the end of the shot clock.
The Rockets had 11 steals and five blocks. They contested more shots than the Timberwolves in last night's games and drew the most charges of any team that played last night.
Coach Silas has mentioned several times that he wants the team to play with energy and play hard every play. Does talent matter in the NBA? Of course, it does, but when you are a rebuilding team struggling for wins, you should never get outworked by any other team in the NBA.