The world is a troubled place right now, in many, many ways. It’s nice to have a place to come to where we can relax and discuss something we all enjoy. It’s not important, or significant, but it’s a break from a grim daily drumbeat.
Tonight the Rockets took on the New Orleans Pelicans in Birmingham, Alabama, for reasons best known to the Pelicans. Jabari Smith Jr got to return to the state where he played college basketball, and he had a fine night, perhaps in front of college friends. The Pelicans didn’t seem to be similarly enthused.
This is a tough game to break down, not so much because of the massive number of players involved, but because the Pelicans seemed to just...give up.
Maybe this is because they’re largely a veteran team and this is pre-season, and not even in New Orleans. (You might think of New Orleans as a young team, but Zion Williamson is entering year five of his NBA career. He’s played 114 of 328 possible regular season games, but still.) Maybe the Rockets are the bad team with something to prove who just wanted a pre season game in Birmingham, Alabama a lot more.
It didn’t quite look like that, though. It looked like guys who didn’t like playing with one another, and who maybe wanted to see their coach get fired, or both. The Pels appeared to give it a go for one quarter, fell behind, and called it a night. The normally dominant Zion just drifted like a sad, enormous, waif. We will see as the season unfolds if this game was a one off bad night, or a lingering story line.
The way the Rockets intend to play is emerging. Constantly attacking - on defense. Crashing the glass - the defensive glass. Working for the ball - again, on defense. Playing with aggression and force - on defense.
The Rockets came up with 18 steals tonight, and it could have been more, fairly easily. Of those 18 steals, only three came from players you wouldn’t expect to get much time for the Rockets (though if the team keeps playing like this, Darius Days, 2 steals, may get a lot of minutes).
The Rockets scored a lot in transition, which should be BBQ chicken for NBA teams, but hasn’t been for the Rockets. The transition game seems to smoking and flavorsome now. Whether this is simply experience, confidence or coaching, the Rockets are running, and generally, scoring. Rookie Cam Whitmore is already a force to be reckoned with in the open court. When I see him now with the ball, one on one, my thought is simply “bucket”. I think he plays on second unit sooner rather than later.
Jabari Smith Jr. seems to (maybe, possibly) be making the leap he hinted at in Vegas Summer League. Tonight he went for 22pts on 9-13 shooting, 9 rebounds, 2 ast, 1 stl, 0 TO and 4-5 from 3pt range in 24 minutes. The smooth, easy, shot we saw on his prospect videos is back. His confidence is back, as he seems to (finally) realize he can simply shoot over almost anyone. If Jabari becomes where the Rockets turn for a reliable bucket, look out.
The rest of the Rockets starting lineup went 1-15 from three, but Jabari and the bench did better. Jalen Green didn’t shoot it well from three, but did go 4-5 otherwise, and 4-4 on his FT. He only managed 2 assists, which surprised me, as he seemed to be helping distribute pretty well. The off-ball creator role will probably suit him well, as he’s a good passer, especially when he’s the one actively threatening the defense.
Alperen Sengun isn’t shooting the three ball well, but he IS shooting it, so we can hope for good things in the future. In other news, however, he soundly defeated his rival center, Meme Man Jonas Vanciunas. Alpie went 12pts/6rb/4ast/4stl/1lbk in 22 minutes. The Whingeing Meme, Vanlancius went for 0pts/4rbs/3ast/ in 24 minutes, so I think we can give this one to Alpie.
Amen Thompson had a better night with 12pts on 4-7 shooting, 1-3 from 3pt range, with 2 rbs, 4ast. He looks like a rookie, but his decision making, and just general presence of mind are good. The Rockets are messing with lineup combinations, but there are some that will just be altogether too big, too athletic, for anyone to deal with, and we haven’t really seen those yet.
There isn’t a lot more to say. The Pelicans played it fairly close for one quarter (33-26 to the Rockets) and then simply sort of collapsed. The fact that they managed on 87 points in pre season is sort of amazing, in a bad way.
Anyhow, it’s another pre-season win for a Rockets team that does seem very committed to working hard on defense, including the various players that were “so concerning” in the off season, like Green and Sengun.
Will the Rockets Break The Single Game Steals Record (27) This Season?
This poll is closed
They won’t, but they’ll break 20.
PS - it is NOT a charge if two players are running down the court side by side, and then one jumps in front of the guy with the ball and falls down. Shame on you, Lauren Holtkamp. This BS charge call HAS to go. It’s not defense, it’s not why the charge call exists, and it’s frankly dangerous and disgusting.