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Rockets run out of time as Pacers win it 132-129

Houston couldn’t complete the comeback after Indiana’s strong third quarter.

Houston Rockets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets came close to keeping pace with the Indiana Pacers in this barn burner, but ultimately came up short as time expired. The home team raced past the visitors 132-129 as Houston failed to prolong the game with a foul with only seconds remaining. This completed a two-game sweep on the season and extended the Rockets losing streak to Indiana up to nine in a row.

November 2019 is the last time the Rockets beat this team for those wondering.

Houston got off to a hot start as Jabari Smith Jr. (20 points) looked like he was picking up from last year’s game winner at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Dillon Brooks also started off hot with a pair of threes, leading to an early Pacers timeout. However, the highest scoring team in the league couldn’t be outshined for too long as the Pacers ended up winning the frame 41-38.

The Rockets reestablished the lead going into halftime as Bari continued his flaming start, but then came the gut-wrenching third quarter. Houston got sloppy after the midway point and committed six turnovers, which the Pacers appropriately took advantage of.

The 38-24 quarter pushed the Pacers ahead for good and they further expanded upon their lead until the Rockets — led by Jalen Green and Amen Thompson — gritted their way back to make this a riveting conclusion. But as you are too far familiar, it was too little too late.

Somehow, I’m coming away from this loss — another L on the road — with positive takeaways.

The first is Amen Thompson. He is a dude in this league and this performance validates all the optimism that we came out of the draft with once he became the selection at number four. 13 points 13 rebounds 6 assists and 3 blocks in only his second career start. *Birdman hand rub*

Amen had about four putback dunks in this one, each more thrilling than the last. As Ryan Hollins put it during the broadcast, throwing it up at the basket and going to get it was probably the Rockets best offense tonight as they dominated the boards.

The rebounding combined with the defense provided just a snippet of what all Amen can become. He made some real heady plays down the stretch that kept giving his team a chance and those aren't always things you can teach as a coach. Some guys just have it in them.

Another takeaway is that the fourth quarter outburst from Jalen is reason number one on why the team shouldn’t be so quick to move on from him. Nobody else on the roster is more well-equipped to gun for buckets as he is. While his 30 points on the night didn't necessarily come within the flow of the offense, sometimes you just need a guy who can exploit defenders and go unconscious.

I also thought Dillon Brooks was great tonight, especially in the absence of Fred VanVleet. He was aggressive on offense (23 points) and was important to setting the tone early on. I sensed the game got away from Houston when he went to the bench for his typical rest between the third and fourth.

There were also some observations that I think could have aided the Rockets in changing the result of this game:

  1. I’m not sure if it was just me, but did Alperen Sengun (20 points 10 rebounds 6 assists) looked a bit gassed late in the game? There were far too many times during the comeback attempt that he was not in the play on defense and it very much stunted any momentum the Rockets had going.
  2. Cam Whitmore should dunk everything. He missed quite a few layups tonight, but there’s not many answers for him dunking. Let’s ignore the nasty block Jalen Smith had on him.
  3. Maybe don’t let TJ McConnell offset the minutes restriction that Tyrese Haliburton was on. McConnell’s 17 points paid huge dividends tonight and it never felt that they were at a disadvantage without their best player on the floor.

Other than that, I’ll live with the result and hope that the team puts it together for a full four quarters Friday in Toronto.