Critical takeaways from Rockets' 123-114 loss to Bucks

Rockets winning streak comes to an end. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As of Friday night, the Houston Rockets seven-game winning streak is over, as they fought a hard battle against the previous NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Rockets did have steady control throughout the game because of Alperen Sengun, Christian Wood (21 points and 47 percent from the field), Garrison Mathews, and Armoni Brooks' terrific effort on the court. But Giannis Antetokounmpo who is a two-time MVP dominated each quarter of basketball. He finished with 41 points, 17 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.

The Rockets shot the ball well Friday night, as they have within these eight games. While having Mathews and Brooks on the floor, the spacing for the Rockets becomes better. It allows more cutting and slipping towards the rim. Friday night, the Rockets finished with 41 percent shooting versus the Bucks. Mathews has a quick and easy release when shooting the basketball and elevation off his jump-shot too. He has become a reliable shooter for the Rockets. Within eight games, Mathews is shooting 46.4 percent from three while averaging 17.0 points per contest and has a 73.8 true shooting percentage.

Brooks and Mathews have catapulted the Rockets to fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting inside eight games. Seeing Brooks becoming more aggressive in his driving is impressive. It allows Brooks to not be stagnate on the court, which keeps the opposing team’s defenses off balance. Brooks has shown he can put the ball on the floor and score, as he did versus the Bucks. He shot 71 percent from the field with four made threes and 21 points. Brooks has already shown his catch-and-shoot skills and off-the-screen shooting, but putting the ball on the floor at a bigger sample will make him a more versatile offensive player.

Sengun had great battles against Bobby Portis and Antetokounmpo. He impressed Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton with his footwork inside the paint Friday night.

“He’s a good player,” Antetokounmpo said. “Takes his time; nothing can speed him up. He might be slow in the post, but he’s effective. He’s playing well. He’s playing a lot of minutes off the bench, gives energy to his teammates. He rebounds the ball well. He’s being aggressive, sets good screens. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

Jae'Sean Tate was also impressed with Sengun. “When you talk about footwork, there’s not anybody that moves like he does… His ability to score around the rim and pass the ball is something you can’t teach,” Tate said. “He’s going to continue to get better and be a problem.”

Sengun is in the 60th percentile in post-ups per Synergy. Friday night, Sengun had 15 points and 5.0 rebounds and a plus 11 from the field against the defending champs. Sengun will become more lethal if he can stay out of foul trouble, as most rookie big men struggle with. His footwork, patience, and skill will accelerate his pace in the NBA.

My biggest note for Christian Wood: IS BECOME AGGRESSIVE IN ALL FOUR QUARTERS!

Wood is playing better basketball now, which is good. He is becoming a better finisher at the rim and over defenders. Wood’s rebounding is very impressive this season, as he is fourth in the NBA in defensive rebounding. He has increased his rebound total towards 11.4 per game, which puts him at 7th in the NBA. Hopefully, Wood got a great look at Antetokounmpo, as he scored 41 points easily. The Rockets are considering offers for Wood on the trade market too.

Although the streak is over, Silas mentioned how he was pleased with the Rockets' effort versus the Bucks.

“My message is they should be so proud of what [we've] done,” Silas said. “They should be proud that we went toe to toe with the champs and it took Giannis going for 41 to beat us.”

Up next: The Rockets face the Grizzlies on Saturday night.

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The Texans can address receiver in the NFL Draft. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans traded away Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Cooks’ move, while not eye-popping from a draft capital standpoint, opens the door for the Texans to pursue a receiver with one of the draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Houston has been known for having a top receiver for most of the franchise’s history. First with Andre Johnson and then with DeAndre Hopkins.

Now with the top spot up for grabs, here are some prospects at receiver the Texans could pursue with either the 12th overall pick or even into the second and third round of this year’s draft.

Quentin Johnston — TCU

Johnston has all the characteristics of a star receiver. He is 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed 208 pounds at the NFL Combine. The Temple native recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine as well.

He hauled in 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns for the Horned Frogs in 2022 in a year that culminated in the College Football Playoff championship game. Johnston caught four passes for 139 yards in the Big 12 Championship Game, and he also caught six passes for 163 yards against Michigan in the College Football Semifinal.

Johnston’s biggest concern heading to the next level is his ability to make catches in traffic. In TCU’s College Football Championship Game against Georgia, he was held to just one catch for three yards. In order to reach his potential, Johnston will need a lot of development that will fall on the shoulders of Ben McDaniels and Bobby Slowik if taken by Houston.

Jordan Addison — USC

The former Trojan and Pittsburgh Panther caught at least 59 passes in every season of his collegiate career.

His best year came as a sophomore when he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. Addison had 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns with Caleb Williams under center in 2022 for USC.

Addison, who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, had a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine. The Frederick, Maryland native’s consistency in college makes him an attractive pick for Houston that is going to be looking for versatile players at the receiver spot for the next signal caller under center.

Some of Addison’s drawbacks include his ability to win battles off the line of scrimmage when facing against physical corners. Similar to Johnston, he likely will not be there in the second round when the Texans pick, so if Houston really likes him, it might take the 12th pick.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba — Ohio State

Smith-Njigba could be the biggest question mark of the draft at the receiver position. After having a productive 2021 season for the Buckeyes, in which he caught 95 passes for an eye-popping 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, he missed most of 2022 with a hamstring injury that limited him to just three games.

He stands at 6-foot-1-inch and 196 pounds, and he had a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine. While excelling at the slot receiver position in 2021, having only one strong season is a big cause for concern.

If he is available after the first round, the Texans should consider taking a chance on him. If he is not, he might be too much of a question mark to take in round one.

Tank Dell — Houston

In a season that was defined by a lot of inconsistency from the Houston Cougars, the one constant was Dell at the receiver spot. Tank Dell, who’s real first name is Nathaniel but don’t call him that, caught at least five passes in every game for UH in 2022.

Despite being the No. 1 option, and in some weeks, the only reliable option at receiver for Houston due to injuries, Dell consistently produced, which is a trait every team in the NFL should love.

Dell finished the 2022 season with 109 catches for 1,398 yards and brought in 17 touchdown receptions for the Cougars. Tank officially measured in at 5 feet, 8 inches at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.49-second 10-yard split and a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

Dell’s biggest cause for concern is his size. If he is still available when the Texans are on the clock at 65, he could be the steal of the draft.

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