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Rockets scorch Spurs 142-110

What do I do?

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets
31pts, 27 minutes.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Rockets won a basketball game. I’m actually recapping that game. They won it easily. I’m not sure what to do! This used to happen on the regular with the Rockets, but it’s been pretty much the opposite in the last three seasons.

Yes, of course the opposition was the equally tank-tastic San Antonio Spurs, but it’s also, given the respective records of the teams, a fair contest.

This was another of the NBA’s “Double Dates” or “Home and Home” where teams play one another twice in a row, or in this case, back to back as well. I’d argue that the Rockets, despite the worse record, have more talent on their roster right now than San Antonio. The reasons for this are well-known, and the causes of the Rockets to been equally bad have been much discussed as well. There’s no need to rehash them on a night that was actually fun and enjoyable. There will be plenty of time for recriminations later.

I’m also not much worried about the Rockets falling out of the NBA’s Tank Battle. They’re still a game “ahead” of the Spurs, and tied with the Pistons.

The argument for the Rockets having a greater depth of NBA talent than San Antonio found some support tonight, as the Rockets pretty much lead wire-to-wire, and by the mid third quarter the blow out was on. It would get worse, as the Rockets bench continued to pour on the points. The only Rockets not to have encouraging nights were the ones who I think are unlikely to be part of any meaningful Rockets endeavor - Frank Kaminsky, Willie Cauley-Stein, and sadly for him Daishen Nix.

Having Josh Christopher and Tari Eason playing a more meaningful role on the Rockets changed things for the better. They’re both menaces on defense, and both push the pace. Unlike Green, and at this point, 19 year old Jabari Smith, they’re physical presences.

The best players for the Rockets tonight were Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, and Kevin Porter Jr. Green served up a nice all-around scoring night, with 31 points in 27 minutes on 11-19 shooting, and 4-8 from deep. He only notched 2 assists. This was totally fine, as Kevin Porter Jr notched 13 assists, and also scored an efficient 19 points on 7-11 shooting. Alperen Sengun not only made one of his highlight no-look behind the back assists, but more importantly scored 15 points, to go along with 15 boards, and 3 assists and 3 steals.

Tari Eason was good too - with 17 points, and 8 rebounds. If he could make a few more close in shots (cough dunks) it’d easily have been 20+ points.

Yes, of course this was the Spurs, but it was also how I thought the Rockets would play all season. The ball moved pretty well, and the young Rockets attacked quickly, and passed off the attack, rather than off a stagnant dribble hand off.

Even the defense looked better, again, Spurs, I know, but the qualitative difference was that drop coverage was largely gone. The generally big, fast, athletic Rockets played a style of defense that suited them, that forced turnovers, that lead to easy baskets off the break. The half-court defense at least looked largely like something you’d see from an NBA team, even if San Antonio managed to make some tough shots.

This was more what I’d been hoping to see from the Rockets all season - playing to their strengths, rather than trying to fit a system that was wrong for them. It’s taken 60 games to get here, and I have to wonder, why? Who was insisting on the previous style of play?

In any case, two wins in a row are rare enough, and the Rockets upcoming schedule looks full of losses. Out of the remaining 18 games, only five are against teams that, currently at least, don’t want and need to win.

A fun win, yet the tank is still rumbling down the road to its rendezvous with bad odds.



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