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Rockets push past Pistons 117-114

A Rare Win Behind Gordon Without Sengun, Green, Porter

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons
Round Faced Mamba Time
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets fell behind early. They came back. They got a slight lead at halftime. They extended the lead early in the second half. They lost that lead by the 4th quarter and were down double digits.

Next verse, same as the first?

Nope. Not tonight, not against their “competition” for the 14% chance to draft Victor Wenbanyama, the Detroit Pistons. Tonight the Rockets came back from their late deficit, and won a closely contested battle to eke out a win.

I know, it’s strange.

Tonight the Rockets were missing Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, and coach Stephen Silas.

They neither shot, nor made, many three point shots, going 8-28 (Detroit shot 38 and made 14 for 37%).

What the Rockets did do was play hard, and not wait around as much on offense. It’s kind of amazing to see the Rockets offensive problem laid out so clearly, both by the Rockets, and also the Pistons. The Rockets offense, and tonight, without their initiators featured a lot less standing around at the top of the 3pt line, and then making passes around the 3pt line. Drive and kick doesn’t work without drives. Detroit’s offense is similar, and looks to work a little better with Dwayne Casey sending his inexperienced, but athletic, squad crashing at the basket, looking to score, pass, or grift a free throw (they were on a 60FT pace late in the first quarter, but grudgingly settled down).

The surveying of a defense is sensible if you’ve got a player who can read a defense, diagnose its weakness, and manipulate it into an advantage for the offense. A player like Luka Doncic, or James Harden. The Rockets, even at full capacity, don’t have such a player, so it’s often better to just attack, and pass out to the corner, or to another cutter.

No, it was a makeshift lineup, so it still had a lot of turnovers, but it did look like simply trying to get to the basket, early in the clock, might be a workable strategy. There wasn’ anyone really out there tonight who could fall back on a 3pt shot if the drive didn’t materialize, or the defense clogged the “round the clock” passing with no other movement.

Instead we say weird-looking drives, and kicks out to...yep...Usman Garuba in the corner late game, who as he often does, drained an open look.

Make no mistake, Detroit isn’t a good team, and neither are the Rockets, but in the end, the Rockets just tried a little harder, and had the best veteran on the court, in Eric Gordon.

The “trying harder” came in the form of a 16-8 offensive rebound advantage, which lead to crucial second chance scores. The Rockets continue to win on the boards, despite not being all that big a team at center - 48-36.

Eric Gordon was kind of awful from three point range (1-8) and great everywhere else, going 7-9 on 2pt shots, and 7-7 at the free throw line, to close out the game for the Rockets. He also dished 7 assists, as well as a customary 4 turnovers, but tonight turnovers were going to happen anyway, so assists were key.

Moreover, every Rocket tried hard on defense. Some weren’t very good at it, but they did try, and that matters.

Eric Gordon, Bojangles Bogdanovich and Alex Burks are all veterans looking for a trade to more relevant teams. Not coincidentally they lead scoring with 24, 18 and 21 points respectively.

Other takeaways for the Rockets were that as the lone high pick on the court for the Rockets, Jabari Smith looked pretty good by the end of the game, after a rough start. He plays hard, with fire, and eventually, with a little time in the league, should be a leader, which the Rockets need.

Daishen Nix played 27 minutes, without much incident positive or negative until draining two crucial three pointers late with the game going back and forth. Josh Christopher settled down and played well, too.

All in all, it’s nice to get a win, and despite it, the Rockets remain flat as a flounder on the bottom of the NBA sea.



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