Earlier, I accidentally wrote that this game was the Houston Rockets’ first in the in-season tournament. It’s too bad that I was wrong, because...
Rockets win baby!
It wasn’t always pretty. After a blistering hot 33-19 first-quarter performance, the Rockets started grinding to a halt. They shot 3/23 in the third quarter - yikes. Nonetheless, they pulled out a gutsy 107-89 victory.
It was Jabari Smith Jr.’s best game of the season. He finished with 21 points on 9/15 shooting to go with 11 boards. Otherwise, the veterans mostly carried the day. Fred VanVleet shot poorly, finishing with 13 points on 7/22 shooting, but he made up for it with 12 assists and only a pair of turnovers. On the other hand, Dillon Brooks looked like the $40 million man. He had 25 points on 9/14 shooting and made some huge plays down the stretch.
Alperen Sengun was good too. His stat line was solid - 15 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists - but more importantly, he held up on the defensive end. Sengun clearly looks better at the level than he did in drop coverage. He’s done a good job of stifling ball-handlers before they can even attempt a layup. It is worth noting that De’Aaron Fox was absent. That’s the type of downhill guard that can give Sengun fits. It will be interesting to watch these teams on Monday - Fox is expected to return.
There was a bit of a dark cloud hanging over this game - or, if you prefer, a Green cloud. Jalen was passive. It feels like he’s trying to fit into a team concept. In theory, that’s good, but he needs to understand that he’s supposed to be a bigger part of that concept. He finished with 10 points on 4/10 shooting from the field.
Otherwise, bench production continues to be a white whale for the Rockets. Jae’Sean Tate finished with 11 points. The entire Houston bench finished with 13. Jeff Green hit a free throw, and Jermaine Samuels Jr. hit two in garbage time. It’s time to get Cameron Whitmore out there. At this point, Ime Udoka could give Cameron Diaz some run. The Rockets need production in the second unit. They still had enough to overcome the Kings tonight.
Too bad it wasn't part of the in-season tournament.