You can tell something either went extremely right or extremely wrong if the starters don't play in the fourth quarter. Thankfully for the Houston Rockets, everything swung right on Wednesday night.
The Rockets dominated LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers from tip-off to the final buzzer and pushed their winning percentage over .500 for the first time since February 2021. It’s been 1,005 days to be exact.
Perhaps the most impressive stat in this 128-94 victory is that this is the third game in a row that the Rockets have held their opponents to under 100 points. It’s been over four years since that last happened!
If the Rockets hold the Lakers under a 100 that would be 3 straight games. They haven’t done that since March of 2019!— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) November 9, 2023
Long story short, it starts with defense. The additions of Dillon Brooks, Fred VanVleet, and the implementation of Ime Udoka’s defense-first mindset have started to manifest after a disappointing start to the season.
Also of note from this game is that the Rockets won every quarter and every player was a plus on the box score plus/minus. Even the bench was thoroughly whooping on the Lakers.
Speaking of the bench, the Rockets got a huge boost from the return and season debut of Tari Eason. Eason immediately put his footprint on the game with a 9 point and 9 rebound performance. It’s apparent that he’s going to thrive in Udoka’s system and I’m looking forward to seeing him off of a minutes restriction.
Jae’Sean Tate (14 points), Jeff Green (9 points and 6 rebounds), and Aaron Holiday (7 points and 3 assists) also played fantastic tonight, so much so that I dived straight into the second unit before even discussing the starters.
By the way, kudos to the starting five as they set the tone early on by racing out to an 8-0 lead. Jalen Green provided a pitch perfect performance, exploding for 28 points (11-15 FGA and 5-6 3PT) in only 21 minutes! Pair that with his 7 rebounds and 3 assists, and the only flaw I could come away from this game with is that he missed three free throws.
While I realize this type of output is abnormal by most NBA player standards, I walked away from this game encouraged that Green isn’t forcing as many shots and is now playing within the flow of the offense. He’ll certainly move up on my tier list if he continues to do that while mixing in some of his God-given athleticism like he displayed on those incredible third quarter layups.
Alperen Sengen also kept chugging along as part of his impressive start to the campaign. His 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists have become par for the course, and it’s a relief that he avoided a worse injury scare after rolling his ankle early on.
DB didn’t provide much in the box score, but between him, FVV and Jabari Smith Jr., they rounded out the starting lineup with equal amounts of intensity. It seems that this team is starting to really round into form as of recently.
Through and through, this was an awesome night for the city of Houston. The new threads didn’t look bad, and I dig the court design. The Dunkstronaut is a pretty neat way to pay homage to the essence of Houston, along with basketball.
It also didn’t hurt to look this impressive in a game with past and presence stars in the house. From Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Elvin Hayes and Andre Johnson to CJ Stroud and Tank Dell, it was an overall exciting evening. While it’s true that the Lakers bring out the stars, it’s also largely due to the Rockets simply being better.
I’m looking forward to seeing how far the Rockets can take this!