LAKERS BEAT ROCKETS AGAIN

Rockets fall to Lakers despite big performances from Christian Wood, Jalen Green

Rockets fall to Lakers despite big performances from Christian Wood, Jalen Green
Lakers beat the Rockets, 119-117 on Tuesday night. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

"The fight, the grit, and the stick to it of this group is admirable," Coach Silas said. "Especially against this team."

The Houston Rockets played a tremendous game versus the Lakers, which was their best game of the season. Obviously, the Rockets looked complacent against the Lakers on Sunday night, but film played a huge part Monday. Silas mentioned that grasping the defensive concepts were pivotal for Tuesday night.

"We showed film today that was very positive. We had helped the helper situations, we had cover situations on the weak side where the closest man just has to take it, and we [did]," Silas said. "They're grasping it there, you know it's game. We played six games, so I always wanted to be faster than [what] it's probably going to be. But, yeah, they're getting it."

The Rockets really struggled with getting back in transition because of the turnovers created by the Lakers Sunday night. Those turnovers that created points bothered Silas. He really wanted to correct the issue before facing the Lakers again. They allowed 25 turnovers, which resulted in 20 points in fastbreak transition. The Lakers (103.2) are beneath the Rockets (103.9) in pace, so it becomes extremely dangerous to allow LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to push the tempo in fastbreaks.

"LeBron James has the ball in his hands, he's going to dictate the pace and when Russell Westbrook is upon us and he's going to dictate the pace, and we're still finding our way when it comes to how we dictate pace. The concepts that we've been kind of harping on and getting better at, slowly but surely," Silas said.

When it comes to turnovers, the Rockets average 20.1 turnovers per contest, which isn't healthy for a particular flow throughout the game. It's unhealthy when you're facing a team who is 5th in offensive transition, while the Rockets are 22nd defensive transition and allow 1.24 points per possession (per NBA stats). Although Silas doesn't feel completely comfortable about the defensive transition, the Rockets did look better in defensive transition Tuesday night. Players were communicating and getting back faster on defense, but still managed to have 24 turnovers and 23 points on fastbreaks.

"The transition part is something we talked about a lot coming into this game," Silas said. "We gave 23 fastbreak points, so it wasn't that great. They put a lot of pressure on your defense with Russ and LeBron. They're kind of hard to stop because they're fast and so physical. Our getting back and making sure we're declaring the basketball and fanning out from there are the things we preach."

The Rockets looked good offensively, Jalen Green, Christian Wood, and Jae' Sean Tate provided much-needed scoring.

Green is slowly finding his stride with the Rockets as he recorded 24 points on 60 percent shooting with five made threes. It's intriguing to watch Green have big games against veteran players. His shot making was incredible, as he made difficult step-back threes and slithered through traffic for tough layups.

Another thing I adore is his reads on pick-and-roll, as made good reads when blitzed by the Lakers. He made difficult passes and clutch shots, which helped the Rockets stay in the game. Green is having an uneven season but could still explode on a random night.

The Lakers did a good job on defending Green with double teams, physical play, denial of the ball, and playing over the screens to deny the dribble handoff. They made it hard for Green in the 3rd quarter, but it's another learning curve for Green to recover from. Although the Lakers made it harder on Green, he stayed aggressive. Green had a 75.6 true shooting percentage versus the Lakers, which capped off a tremendous 76.7 effective field goal percentage.

Christian Wood had a big game

Christian Wood recorded his fourth double-double on the season. He applied constant pressure in transition and in halfcourt sets. Wood relied on dribble handoffs and pick-and-roll to free himself up, so he could make it easier on Green and Kevin Porter Jr. He even a made a few three-point shots, but never settled, as he attacked the basket in transition. It was fun watching Wood embrace the challenge of facing Anthony Davis, as he consistently attacked him in the paint from the perimeter.

Wood finished his night with 26 points on 57 percent shooting and 16 rebounds. He even had a 61.3 shooting percentage.

A season-high for Jae-Sean Tate

Jae-Sean Tate had a season-high 20 points versus the Lakers. He focused on the details, as it came to cutting to the basket and finishing near the rim. Although Tate isn't the best three-point shooter, he made 50 percent of his perimeter shots. Tate becomes more effective without the ball because of his screening and cutting. He is used in pick-and-rolls, so he can make easy slips toward the basket. Just because he is 6'4 doesn't mean he can't hang around the rim for easy buckets. If Tate makes strong drives toward the basket and makes his shots, it could be a long night for the defending team.

"It's his mentality. His versatility is great. His strength and size are great for our group. He wanted to guard those guys and wants to be in those situations. He wants to be the stopper down the stretch, so he was really really good tonight. His scoring and crashing the glass, then his defense. That's good for a second year player," Silas said.

Tate even had great defensive stops too on James. In the 4th quarter with 7:48 left, James started to take over, but Tate accepted the challenge so he could make it possible for Green's clutch shots toward the end of the game. Tate and Silas both feel like his defense can take him far. Silas was seen signaling no help, as Tate took on James in an isolation post-up position.

"I feel like I can be an elite defender and coach trusts me to guard the best players on the opposing team," Tate said.

Despite the Rockets' best efforts, they came up short losing to the Lakers, 119-117 on Tuesday night.

Next up: The Rockets head to Phoenix to face the Suns on Thursday night.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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