Super Small Ball

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Mavericks in Houston 128-121

This may not go down as one of the more exciting Rockets' games this season, but it's certainly a noteworthy one considering how much the Rockets experimented with small ball units. For 48 minutes, the Rockets did not play a traditional center once and for the most part, found a lot of success in playing this way. For the first three quarters, the Rockets played well enough defensively to build a huge lead and throughout the game, the Rockets had solid scoring opportunity after opportunity due to the amount of space they had to work with.

Though fans may be upset that backup center Isaiah Hartenstein didn't play tonight, the players seemed to really enjoy playing without a big clogging the lane. Russell Westbrook and James Harden got clean looks for most of the game, but especially in the third quarter, where Houston scored 36 points on 14 of 26 shooting from the field and 4 of 11 from three-point range.

"It's real fun though," said Danuel House about the small units. "The ball has a lot of energy and the defensive intensity is super high, so I enjoy it."

An interesting development to watch is Thabo Sefolosha at the backup center. Sefolosha hasn't played significant minutes for most of the season, but Houston's finally found a role for him, as unconventional as it might be. Sefolosha played 14 minutes tonight and the Rockets didn't fair too bad in that time (+4).

Though Houston got killed on the boards with Kristaps Porzingis dominating the paint (35 points and 12 rebounds on 12 of 20 shooting from the field), Houston clearly made the calculated decision to forgo these disadvantages for the offensive advantages that they took advantage of tonight.

Star of the game: When James Harden is playing well, there are few weapons you'd like to have with a spaced floor like the Rockets had tonight. After being in a slump for much of January, Harden erupted for 35 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals on 10 for 25 shooting from the field, 6 for 14 shooting from three-point range, and 9 for 10 shooting from the free throw line. Harden made an effort to be aggressive early in the game, attempting seven field goals in the first quarter alone.

Honorable mention: It's becoming a regular occurance for Russell Westbrook to have games like this, but it's still impressive nonetheless. Westbrook had 32 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 13 of 28 shooting from the field and 6 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. More than anyone on the team, Westbrook benefits from a spread floor. Houston had plenty of driving lanes and he took advantage of them, in transition and in the half court.

Key moment: The Rockets had their best stretch in the game in the third quarter, where they outscored the Mavericks 36 to 25. Russell Westbrook and James Harden had some of their best stretches as a duo in this quarter and together combined for 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field. Westbrook really got going in transition, found teammates (4 assists), and got to the rim himself (12 points on 6 of 8 shooting).

Up next: The Rockets play the New Orleans Pelicans in Houston at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome