Critical lessons learned from Rockets' 122-91 loss to Jazz

Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

This game was filled with mistakes that this young core of the Houston Rockets must learn from. Mistakes on the offensive glass, miscommunication on defense, turnovers, and ball placement hurt the Rockets throughout the game. The Utah Jazz are the veterans with experience, as they played with great IQ and communication, which is something this young core can learn from.

The Rockets had no pace and struggled to generate shots in the first half and second half. They finished with a -31 as a whole on defense and offense. The Jazz were able to capitalize on every mistake this young core made. Mostly in the first half it was just fastbreaks and open three-point shooting. Shockingly, the Jazz only had 14 points on fastbreaks and shot the three-ball at 35 percent.

"The way they defend, and what they allow you to get, you're going to have to shoot well to get them or your going to have to get layups in transition and beat them down the floor," Coach Silas said. "And the other end is figuring out a way to eliminate their three-point shots. The second shots killed us and their size in the inside on our switching killed us as well."

The Rockets also struggled with the rebounding, as it was 58-41 Jazz in that category. Things become easier when you have a stronger Rudy Gobert out-rebounding a frail Christian Wood. Gobert created a ton of a space in the paint for passing lanes and rebounds. He had great screens that allowed Bojan Bogdanovic to have great looks at the basket from the perimeter.

The Jazz capitalized on the switching terminology on defense and offense, which still confuses the Rockets. Also not communicating on defense hurt the Rockets a lot, which created open passing lanes and shots for Joe Ingles, Gobert, and Bogdanovic. Watching the ball movement and communication that the Jazz displayed showed great team cohesiveness, as they've been together for three-five years. Their team chemistry is something the Rockets must copy for future purposes.

Jalen Green did struggle but stayed aggressive throughout the night. He finally got opportunities to shoot free throws, as he was 77 percent in that area. Green is still struggling to find his shot in the NBA, but he did manage to have a career night versus the Boston Celtics with 30 points and eight made threes, which surpassed the Rockets' rookie record. In due time, Green will be able to make the most of his shots. He shot 3 of 16 (18.7 percent) from the field against Utah.

The things that I adore about Green is his aggressive nature, as he is averaging 14.2 points per game on 34.7 percent shooting from the field. He is averaging 15 attempts per game and doesn't care if he is missing or making. Green doesn't want to depend on the free throw line, as he wants all his strengths to come from his shooting. He creates great space between him and the defender because of his step backs and elite first step towards the rim. After his one-on-one session with John Wall, Green discussed the missed calls on him.

"I understand I'm a rookie and I'm not going to get calls like that. It's a man's league, anyway. I just have to be strong and keep playing aggressive."

As for this Rockets team, it's one step at a time.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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