If you are a Houston Rockets fan, I don't have to tell you how long and painful the last three seasons have been. Franchise players leaving, the general manager walking out the door, and two, possibly three, seasons with the worst record in the NBA.
The bad records have netted you two talented young players in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith, but sitting through 82 games of mostly losing basketball is not any less painful, regardless of who you get in the draft.
One person has been the poster child for most of the Rockets fan's anger: Stephen Silas. Put into an impossible situation from day one. Coach Silas has had ups and mostly downs in almost three seasons as the Rockets head coach. Coach Silas came to the Rockets expecting to coach two future Hall of Famers and instead has coached one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
With youth has come a lot of growing pains and a lot of losses. The Rockets are again at the bottom of the standings, but during this three-game winning streak, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't a train.
With the Rockets down one with four seconds left, Jabari Smith pulled up from 30 feet and hit the biggest shot of his career. That wasn't the only clutch moment of the game, and for one game at least, Coach Silas proved he could make all the right calls and help his team come away with a victory.
Here are three clutch decisions and play calls by Stephen Silas tonight in the Rockets 114-112 victory.
The screen-and-curl play to Jalen Green
With 35.8 seconds left in the game, the Rockets trailed 112-109. The Rockets were coming out of a timeout and had a play drawn up for Green. The play was designed to have Green curl around an Alperen Sengun pick to the weak side, and the play was run to perfection.
Green dip low around the pick, and Kevin Porter Jr. hit him in stride. Even though it wasn't a three, as Green foot was on the line, it still was a huge play. It may have seemed like a simple play, but clearing out the left side and giving Green plenty of room made all the difference.
Lets not forget this play. Jalen Green has gotten so much better at coming off screens. He stays low runs Ingram off a great Sengun screen and even with good defense the half-second he got from the screen made a huge difference pic.twitter.com/xtYIepkcYr— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) March 18, 2023
Having Jabari Smith as the safety valve
As mentioned earlier, Smith made the biggest shot of his career as he nailed a three-pointer with only .4 seconds left on the clock. It all started with Coach Silas having Smith as the safety valve.
The original play called for Green to come to the ball, but the Pelicans did an excellent job denying him the ball. Having Smith, who is 6’10” and can shoot off anybody as the outlet, gave the Rockets the best chance if they needed a last-second shot. No other player but Smith (maybe Green) on the team can get their jumper off against any defender. The only way that shot goes in is if you can elevate and get a clear shot.
It was no mistake that Smith was the player out at the mid-court line. It was that way by design, and Coach Silas again made the right decision.
JABARI SMITH HAS ARRIVED. Any one that said he was a bust probably time to scrub your timeline pic.twitter.com/ViHoyyMjG0— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) March 18, 2023
Boban makes sure it wasn't a repeat of the South Beach disaster.
Boban Marjanović, the league's most-liked player, has mostly watched this season from the bench. Tonight Boban played a grand total of four seconds, four of the year's most important seconds.
After the Smith huge three-pointer, there were still four seconds left on the clock. We all remember the nightmare down in Miami.
At the time, the Rockets didn't have Boban, as they had to cut him to make room for their trade deadline deals. However, coach Silas had the option this time and again made the right decision to have Boban on the court. Boban was guarding the ball, and as the Pelicans went for the alley-oop, Boban was able to get a fingertip on the pass and end the game.
Would the Pelicans have been able to execute that play if the ball got past Boban? Maybe, but it made it a moot point when the ball fell to the court off Boban's hand.
Another huge decision or action by Coach Silas was his running to the mid-court line to get the time out immediately after the Rockets secured the rebound at the end of the game. It may not seem like a huge deal, but his running down the court and getting the timeout it saved the Rockets almost two seconds, and they needed every second they could get.
Does a three-game winning streak in March of an 18-win season make up for three seasons of bad basketball? Of course not, but at the very least, it gives Rockets fans some hope and turning around a franchise has to start somewhere, and no better place to start than with hope.