ROCKET LAUNCH

Let's discuss the most exciting Rockets storylines this preseason

The Rockets play the Raptors on Monday night. Composite image by Jack Brame.

This Houston Rockets team so far is entertaining, energetic, and fun to watch, but is still trying to understand the learning process of the NBA. In the preseason, this young core went against the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat, which was a huge difference between the two competition wise.

The Wizards are in a similar process because of the new acquisitions they have on their team (Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Aaron Holiday). While the Heat had the experienced veteran team with a former a Rocket, PJ Tucker, and newly acquired Kyle Lowry.

The Rockets matched up well against the Wizards, as there was a slight pull in the 2nd quarter because of the veteran player Bradley Beal. But it was entertaining to see Kevin Porter Jr. counter with a great performance of 25 points, 50 percent around the three-point line, and 52 percent from the field. He showed a combination of step-backs, handles, and composure. Porter looks more commanding of the point guard position, which is good. He seems to understand how the five-out offense works for Stephen Silas. It was fun to watch Porter allow the actions (offensive plays) of the offense to create for themselves.

Porter looks confident as a point guard to run the offense for the Rockets and keep his teammates involved with creative passing across the other side of the court, pick-and-roll, and in transition. He understands his duties on the court while knowing scoring is still important for him. The Heat played incredible physical defense and knew how to close the driving lanes for the Rockets. Porter is learning how to get to the free throw line with a unique skill set, which is like his favorite player, James Harden (former Rocket). He shot 66 percent at the free throw line versus the Heat.

The Heat challenged the backcourt of Jalen Green and Porter. Green struggled from three the previous night against the Wizards but still showed his incredible speed, first-step, and aggressive driving techniques at the basket. I cannot forget Green's incredible skill set as a dribbler at 6'6. In his debut versus the Wizards, Green had 12 points, but had a better night against the Heat with an impressive 20 points, 44 percent at the three-point line, and 40 percent from the field. Green had to get creative because of the closures in the driving lanes and physicality of the Heats' defense. Green made a statement on the Heats' physicality on defense.

He made an incredible showcase of shooting the basketball versus the Heat, as they had tight defense the whole night. Green had to make tough shots and show his creativity with the basketball, including making open shots when given. Silas was impressed with Green's strong performance versus the Heat.

So far, Green and Porter have combined for 69 points in the two games that they played together, and love playing with each other. Hopefully, the combination continues to grow as John Wall and Silas encourage the two to keep growing.

As I move onto the frontcourt, which is Alpren Sengun, Daniel Theis, and Christian Wood, this group of big men is promising, but it could still take some time, as Silas mentioned.

"Still work in progress. Christian does a great job of rebounding the ball and pushing it up the floor and rarely makes mistakes in those situations," as Silas said. "He usually gets to the rim or a handoff to a teammate and that's a way to get him involved and get him the ball. And with Theis, he is a great screener and roll. He likes a little short roll, and he makes that little shot. It's going to take time for those two to learn how to play off each other."

Wood and Theis are trying to challenge each other by guarding 1-5 on defense, as that could help the younger backcourt of Green and Porter. These big men have the length and wingspan to challenge guards on defense. Wood did have a 112 defensive rating and struggled in drop coverage last season on guards, which were switches (1.18 points per possession and 5.4 percentile in guarding the pick-and-roll ball handler)

Theis has mentioned that Wood has improved on his defense and continues to get better.

Wood will be tested on defense but thankfully Theis is around to help. It also seems to me that Wood is putting the ball on floor more, which is good. Being versatile around the perimeter could put him in the company of Anthony Davis. His versatility will keep defenses on their feet, and he'll be more unpredictable this season.

Theis has provided his screen mobility and rim running ability for the Rockets in preseason. His leadership has been pivotal for this young core. Green said:

"I talk to him all the time. I look at him as my big bro already. He is just giving me advice off the pick-and-roll and how to come off it. He just has so much knowledge."

It's proven that Theis has a great ability when making unique moves toward the basket and hanging around the rim for lobs. He has helped Porter in pick-and-roll and used his voice with Green. Theis is showing the ability to force his opposing player into tough shots because of his lateral quickness and size as a big man. He was worth the three-year deal he received from the Rockets in the offseason so far. Theis' duties so far are keeping this young core together and doing the dirty work, which is screening and finishing around the rim.

Sengun has shown a lot of the scoring but also being creative at dribble-hand-offs and passing the ball in tight spots. I have seen a decent amount of rebounding from Sengun. Sengun can develop a knack around the basketball as a rebounder (seven rebounds per game). The impressive thing about Sengun is the passing, as he is averaging three assist a game in the preseason. He slightly reminds me of Nikola Jokic. Theis said that he reminds him of Enes Kanter too on media day. "His skill set is big, he is a post player, and reminds me of Enes Kanter," Theis said.

Josh Christopher has shown great resilience in the 4th quarter for the Rockets, as he is not trying to play in the G-League. He has provided life for the Rockets because of his great transition skills. Christopher is averaging 11.5 points per game for the Rockets in the preseason and shooing the three-ball at 42.9 percent. His three-point shooting has impressed spectators the most. Silas will love that the most because in the five-out offense, shooting is important. I love that Christopher plays hard and is patient with the playing time that is received. Hopefully, his versatility on offense and defense is seen more this preseason.

The Rockets take on Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors on Monday, so hopefully more growth is seen.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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