The Houston Rockets are currently having their worst season in franchise history. Their player development is abysmal, the coaching staff is lackluster, and the team is dead last in the Western Conference. At this point, there’s no hope for immediate improvement, considering that the odds for them to get the first overall pick is determined by a head to head tanking battle against the Detroit Pistons.
However, there are some bright spots. Let’s talk about them.
Thirteen Game Losing Streak Snapped
Stephen Silas is yet again on the wrong side of a double digit losing streak, the fourth in his third year of coaching. Fortunately, losing streaks are meant to be snapped. It’s just a matter of when. Houston’s first win in 13 games came against the second back to back matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Notable highs include the pairing between Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green. Green had another 40 point game, his second one in three games, as he shot 60% from the field and 50% from three. Sengun’s performance was solid as well, with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Both combined for a +27 on the court. The best plus minus came from KJ Martin, who had a +22, and was all over the court. The Rockets won 119-114 against the likes of stars in Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell.
Houston, We Still Have a Problem
The following matchup was against the Washington Wizards. In the fourth quarter, Houston led as many as 19 points, eyeing a win streak for the first time in forever. Unfortunately, it ended in a loss. With a final score of 108-103, the Rockets lost another fourth quarter lead this season. In 15 of their overall games when they lead after three quarters, only one game has ended in a win. While Green struggled mightily, Sengun continued his torrid month of January, with a stat line of 21/11/10/3/2, securing his second career triple double.
Want to hear a fun fact? Sengun is only the 2nd 20-year-old to have recorded this killer stat line. The other 20-year-old? Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Let that sink in.
Even with this promise, the Rockets lost yet another game. This time there was no contest, as the Cleveland Cavaliers mopped the floor with them, winning 113-95 on Houston’s home floor.
Look, the talent is clearly there in Houston and they clearly play better than what their record of 11-38 justifies. But for most of the season, the execution of that talent has been far from consistent. Constant fourth quarter collapses and questionable player rotation still loom around the team. However, the loss of Kevin Porter Jr. due to injury could possibly turn the tide.
Rockets Future Secured?
His injury provided more touches to Sengun, who is currently having the best stretch of his career. In the month of January before the game against Cleveland, Sengun is averaging All-Star level numbers in 18.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. This is done with a crisp 63% from the field. His three point attempts aren’t as consistent but when he is given sufficient room, he can surely knock them down.
When the ball is in Sengun’s hands compared to Porter’s facilitation, the offense is night and day. There’s electric ball movement, timely screens, and superb facilitation. This also benefits Jalen Green, as he receives better shot selection. Back when Porter was on the court, there was more isolated plays. Often Green and Porter would play a my turn, your turn playstyle, which is extremely predictable. Most of their teammates would just stand in the wings waiting for a pass. Every other possession would lead to a heavily contested pull up shot, increasing Green’s inconsistency.
Porter Eyeing a Return
It appears that Houston has found their future pieces to build around in Green and Sengun. This bodes the question; what will happen when Porter comes back? From Porter’s point of view, it’s likely he will be excited to get back on the court and play his usual minutes as the starting point guard.
Surely it would be unwise for Silas to go back to the way they were playing with Porter taking back facilitation duties. Silas needs to utilize his strengths, which is shot creating and scoring. Consider using him as a 6th man so that the scoring can remain consistent with the underperforming second unit.
It’s highly unlikely that Silas would listen to me, a beat writer and my wishful thinking. But hey, one can dream. Bottom line, the Houston Rockets have likely figured it out. Let’s see if they stick with it.
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