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Rockets punish Thunder on the boards en route to 110-101 victory

Houston’s size advantage paved the way towards another home win.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

‘Tis the season, Holiday Season that is. More specifically, Aaron Holiday!

Aided by a pleasant performance from the youngest Holiday, the Houston Rockets were able to take advantage of a smaller Oklahoma City Thunder squad on the way to a 110-101 final tonight. Houston received numerous contributions across the board tonight, but none were more surprising than the 22 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists game by Holiday.

He nearly outshot the Thunder on his own — 6-for-7 from three compared to OKC’s 8-for-29. It shouldn’t even be a debate if he’s earned himself a spot in the rotation, regardless of when Amen Thompson returns from the G-League.

Another bright spot tonight came from the play of Dillon Brooks. His 23 points and 40 minutes led the Rockets in both categories as he drew a tough assignment in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA led both teams in scoring with 33 points on efficient shooting, but Brooks managed to stay out of foul trouble and make SGA work as he mirrored his fellow countryman’s minutes throughout the game.

The large storyline coming into this game centered around the first regular season matchup between last season’s number two overall pick, Chet Holmgren, and how he’d fare against the third pick in 2022, Jabari Smith Jr., as well as budding star, Alperen Sengun. While Holmgren has looked like the front-runner in this year’s Rookie of The Year race, tonight wasn’t his finest outing.

Houston’s big men were able to hold Chet to a career-low 4 points, while also imposing their will on the boards. Holmgren picked up 6 blocks during the game as the Rockets made a collective effort to repeatedly attack the rim, but Mark Daigneault only elected to play him 26 minutes as that wasn’t enough to fend off the duo of Smith and Sengun.

Like Chet, Jabari left more to be desired on the offensive end (6 points), but he did rack up a career-high 18 rebounds. You have to love when your bigs use their size in advantageous situations.

Alpy was more able to utilize his size to gain an upper hand on offense as he powered his way to 21 points 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Watching this game, it made me wonder how long Sam Presti can realistically wait to add another Center to his roster. There’s no way that OKC can win multiple rounds in the playoffs if they have to rely on 6’6” Kenrich Williams and 6’9” Jaylin Williams as the only lines of defense behind Holmgren.

The Rockets were also playing shorthanded tonight as Jeff Green missed the game due to a personal reason, and Jock Landale was also out with an illness. Tari Eason also felt under the weather, but he was able to give it a go and provided valuable minutes. Tari’s physicality — 9 points and 8 rebounds — enforced the fact that the Rockets are just simply the larger team.

The only thing I can really pick at from this game is the 21-9 turnover differential that favored the Thunder. However, that didn’t really do much for them when you consider that the Rockets outscored them 26-11 in points off turnovers. I’m still not sure how that makes sense.

Most impressively, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rockets were able to improve to 9-1 at home by holding the best three-point shooting team in the league to a measly 27.6 percent during this game. It would be nice to see whatever type of horseshoe they play with in the Toyota Center travel to opposing arenas.

We’ll get a chance to see if Houston can flip the script on Thursday when they visit the Denver Nuggets. See you then!