The Houston Rockets will have to try to get back in the win column without its floor leader vs. the Indiana Pacers. Fred VanVleet has been ruled out for Tuesday's game with a left abductor strain. Losing VanVleet will leave a huge hole at point guard as VanVleet leads the team in assists at 8.2, which is a career high.
Rockets guard Fred VanVleet is out tomorrow in Indianapolis with a left adductor strain. He struggled in Minneapolis last night, getting just one assist, his first game this season with more turnovers (2) than assists.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 5, 2024
This will be only the third game VanVleet has missed this season. The prior two didn't go well for the Rockets as they lost both games, the latest being against the Celtics on January 21. VanVleet is playing 37 minutes a game this season, and according to Ime Udoka, the plan was to limit his minutes in the second half of the season. With the injury, we will see plenty of Amen Thompson, as he should move into the starting lineup.
The question was never who would move into the starting lineup. The real question is who will be the backup point. Yes, Aaron Holiday has played some backup point guard this season, but he has fallen out of the rotation the last few weeks with the emergence of Thompson. If I had to guess, I think Coach Udoka staggers Jalen Green and Thompson at least to start the game and have Green coming back in to relieve Thompson.
Even with VanVleet healthy, Green has played some point, leading to VanVleet playing off-ball. Another reason we may see Green at this point is his connection with Alperen Sengun, especially in the pick-and-roll. Green seems to have a great connection with Sengun, and the Rockets may try to implement that into the offense more, especially with VanVleet out.
Another possibility is running the offense through Sengun at the high post, which can serve two purposes. First, Sengun is a great passer and always finds the open man. Second, it brings Myles Turner away from the basket, which could help the Rockets get into the paint.
It's never a good thing to miss the game with injuries, but maybe this can help the offense, especially on the break. As we all know, that isn't VanVleet’s strength, but it is for Thompson, as he’s constantly pushing the pace is something Green mentioned after the loss to the Timberwolves.
For whoever plays the backup point, one thing is clear: The Rockets will have their handful with the new-look Pacers, who, a couple of weeks ago, traded for Pascal Sikam. The Rockets will look to get back into the win column tomorrow as they take on the Pacers in Indiana, which will be game two of a four-game road trip.