Wednesday was an evening of two halves. The first half, the Rockets were HOOPING and seemed to do no wrong. Then, the second half came, Orlando implemented zone defense, and the Rockets couldn’t even do wrong the right way. The team felt like they were sinking in quick sand as they could not adjust to breaking the zone. This in turn has led to the downward spiral of games recently and this outcome was no different as the Rockets stifled by zone; lose to Magic 106-100.
Streaky first half grabs lead for Rockets
The Magic with Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Bol Bol made their yearly visit to Toyota Center against the Houston Rockets and the game was a doozy. The Rockets quickly came out to a first half lead of 64-54 over the Magic with hot shooting from the behind the arc led by Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. The Rockets had made a total of eight threes in the last two games and they matched that before the end of the first half alone. To see that from the Rockets, was a nice boost from them since they really needed the confidence. It’s been a struggle as of late but to see it was a sight for sore eyes.
Struggles against the Zone
Going into the second half, this felt like a game the Rockets could use to get off the schneid but it was not to be. In the third quarter, the Magic decided to use a zone defense and like previous times before the Rockets were stifled by it once again. Unfortunately, due to the length of the Magic frontline and the speed that is their back court, the Rockets were stymied and unable to score. The Rockets were outscored 62-46 in the second half and they continually struggled.
Due to the zone, it felt as if they should’ve ran more sets with Alperen Sengun at the top of the key but it was not to be. Combine this with the sad fact that Jalen Green only had one shot attempt in the fourth quarter. Yes, you heard that correctly, ONE SHOT ATTEMPT for the Rockets’ top player. That is COMPLETELY inexcusable in my book but I am not paid the big bucks for these decisions. Pair these with bad decisions by everyone, including Kevin Porter Jr. Although, KPJ filled the stat sheet with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, he also struggled in his decisions with 5 turnovers. Unfortunately, as the point guard, he’s got to be better in situations in controlling the game and not forcing bad passes. It just felt like he would panic or rush in certain situations.
Despite the decision making, KPJ had himself a game still. The man shot 12/19 from the field and shot 5/9 from behind the 3 point line. In this instance, it was nice to see KPJ find his stroke again and shoot the ball comfortably in the flow of the offense. Jalen Green found himself shooting 50% through three quarters and finished with 21 points with four 3-point shots made. Jalen absolutely needed that, for his confidence, and I can see this helping his shot moving forward. As a scorer, he absolutely needed to see some threes fall and that certainly matters despite only getting ONE fourth quarter shot attempt.
To me, that’s completely absurd and needs to change soon! Credit should also go to KJ Martin with another strong outing off the bench with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists to pair with 7/11 shooting from the field. It’s evenings like this where Rockets fans pine for the possibility of KJ starting at the 3, instead of Eric Gordon, and the gripes are certainly warranted. Once EG is moved, crossing fingers, we will see what happens and including the impending return of Jae’Sean Tate could impede KJ’s getting in that lineup.
With how we lost this game, it feels like this falls more on Coach Stephen Silas than the players. Yes, at the end of the day the team must execute, BUT if the team isn’t executing then the coach must make the adjustment. The fact that the Rockets are stymied time and time again, with the zone, it shows that whatever Silas has drawn up to combat it has not worked whatsoever. It will be up to Silas to make the proper adjustments and for these guys to be prepared because they will see this more frequently. Hopefully, in this aspect, practice will make perfect. Friday, the Rockets will be hosting the Dallas Mavericks in the final game of this long homestand. Would this be the game to get the Rockets back in the win column? I doubt it but like JP from Angels in the Outfield once said “Hey it can happen!” So we will see.