ROCKETS REACTION

The injury bug, PJ Tucker's absence, and Kevin Porter Jr's impressive debut

The injury bug, PJ Tucker's absence, and Kevin Porter Jr's impressive debut

In the words of Victor Oladipo, "The whole year has been a whirlwind", which is correct. The Houston Rockets have suffered from James Harden's departure, injuries, and the lack of chemistry. Coach Silas mentioned that the season has suffered because of those components. It was said that PJ Tucker is frustrated with not playing with another competitor. Tucker ended up leaving Sacramento mid-game because of the situation.

"We're going to try to figure out something that works for him and works for us as far as him not being on the team anymore. I was under the assumption that he was going to play tonight, and he didn't play. That was disappointing," Coach Silas said. "He decided that he was just not really with it, and we decided that that's a good idea. Let's move on."

Speaking of injuries, Eric Gordon scored 17 points in the first half but then hurt his groin. Gordon did not return. Before the game started, it was announced John Wall got dinged up after bumping knees with another player during Wednesday's practice. One positive note, Christian Wood has become healthier and participated in Wednesday's practice. He still didn't play against the Sacramento Kings for precautionary reasons. It became a scary sight when Kevin Porter Jr. almost injured his knee during the game. Hopefully, the Rockets can avoid the injury bug for the rest of the season, as they only have eight players to deploy versus the Utah Jazz Friday night.

Kevin Porter Jr. had a nice debut

Porter had an impressive night because of his playmaking ability. He was able to create a double-double for himself. Kevin finished Thursday night's game with 13 points and 10 assists, including three steals and one block. He shot 45 percent from the field versus the Kings. Porter showed active hands in the passing lanes, which made him dangerous in transition. He was able to find his teammates on fast breaks, and showed the ability to create for himself.

Porter is slowly getting comfortable inside the Rockets' offense. He is showing aggression and discipline when running the offensive sets for the Rockets, which is impressive. That allows Porter to find his teammates for open opportunities, which allows the game to become easier for him. Porter's game will continue to get better because of the support system on the Rockets' coaching staff.

Hopefully, the Rockets can get healthy and lineup some trades before the deadline. That should be their focus moving forward.

Next up: The Rockets head to Utah to play the Jazz on Friday night.

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Coogs beat the Sooners, 87-85. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.

Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.

“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”

Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”

L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.

Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.

Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.

“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”

Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.

Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.

The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.

“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”

Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.

Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

UP NEXT:

Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

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