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Three Things We Saw From Houston Rockets Christmas Win

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After NBA’s traditional Christmas’ over dose it’s business as usual today with 26 teams going at it, battling for a place in next year’s playoffs, including your Houston Rockets who face the New Orleans Pelicans.

Let’s take a step back though and try to understand and assimilate the Rockets beautiful game against the San Antonio Spurs last night and decipher if it was just a holiday gift or something we can expect more of.

Arguably one of the top three teams in the league today, the San Antonio Spurs were a clear cut favorite to take the game. Nevertheless when we are talking about a state rivalry things get a little more complicated. Add to that Houston Rockets executing likely their best game of the season and we had a game for the ages.

Despite the fact some might not agree with me and didn’t like the game due to the excessive number of mistakes and turnovers it only goes to show how strong and aware both defenses were.

And to me I’d say it’s just as pleasurable watching a beautiful defensive stop as an aggressive attacking advance.

It’s equally incredible having the priviledge of watching Kawhi Leonard and James Harden two of the best players in the league today, go at each other.

Overall a great game even if Gregg Poppovich was not that impressed with his Spurs.

Apparently Gregg Popovich wouldn’t let the Spurs eat the post game meal. So the media took it. pic.twitter.com/xj6NHpU5Zc

— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) December 26, 2015

Well… here we go, three takeaways from last night’s game at the Toyota Center!

Rockets Bench Domination

That’s a pleasant surprise: I mean a HUGE surprise. Currently the Spurs rank 8th in Bench points per game with 38.2 whereas the Rockets rank 24th with 31.1 points per game. To have the Rockets outscore the Spurs in bench points 41 to 26 is a huge accomplishment for J.B. Bickerstaff.

I’m still not pleased with the inconsistency of Bickerstaff’s rotations. Quite the opposite, as it seems all over the place with players getting straight DNP’s or conversely getting 25 minutes with no discernible reason for the discrepancy such as aligning to the opponent’s roster.

But understanding the game and figuring out who are the best players to use in each given situation is something that Bickerstaff is slowly mastering. There’s still some issues I’ll argue in my next topic, but J.B. adapted nicely when he perceived the game was not in Patrick Beverley’s favor and  adapted by distributing his minutes with Ty Lawson and Jason Terry.

(His perception was also remarkable in terms of Clint Capela’s impact on the defensive end even if he wasn’t scoring many points.)

Finally, Terrence Jones seems to be finally adapting to a new -important- role coming off the bench bringing energy and scoring. It’s looking less and less likely that TJ will be traded especially with consecutive performances like his last couple.

Check out @TerrenceJones1‘s highlights. 8p from the 1st quarter. https://t.co/4bjXMSlOTp

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 26, 2015

Regardless of everything that went well, that leads us to our second point which is:

A Winger Problem

I’m not convinced. I mean seriously I’m just not convinced at all by Corey Brewer this season.

Much has been made of  Ty Lawson and Terrence Jones’ performances, but they are showing extraordinary improvements alongside the team in the last few weeks. But, Corey Brewer just looks different than last season’s edition and hasn’t shown any signs of growth unlike Jones and Lawson.

He may not be a reliable option anymore.

It appears he has the complete confidence of the coaching staff even when his numbers aren’t warranting it. Case in point versus the Spurs he had as many turnovers as points: 4.

Things get much scarier when you take a look at his overall splits from the last 5 games: 2.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 23.1 FG% and 16.7% from three!

I don’t feel that Corey Brewer should still be Trevor Ariza’s first replacement. Unfortunately, it’s imperative for Ariza, who’s suffering a mini shooting slump himself, having his on court minutes reduced to improve his efficiency.

And while Brewer is his immediate sub the Rockets remain in danger at that position.

One option would be K.J. McDaniels but:

Rockets to send Montrezl Harrell, K.J. McDaniels to D-League https://t.co/F6xuuE1I0p

— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 26, 2015

Oh well… let’s move on.

A Monster named Kawhi Leonard

It’s shocking. Absolutely shocking what Kawhi Leonard is able to contribute and do for this San Antonio Spurs team. Forget LaMarcus Aldridge, the future of the Spurs franchise lies on the (huge) hands of Leonard.

There’s no one (not named Draymond Green) that is able to have this sort of domination in every aspect of the game. Last night for example he filled the stat sheet with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks. Complete all over the board. Not to mention his shooting percentage was strong as was his plus-minus stats. Looking at the chart below all the yellow lines represent where he led his team:

Notably he did all this with only one turnover and also had 4 offensive rebounds second only to Aldridge.

Everything Leonard does is with quality and if we were to compare him with the top 10 players of the league in efficiency: Leonard ranks 7th but he plays the fewest minutes. As well he is by far the one who commits the fewest turnovers with only 1.2.

He is also top 5 in steals and he’s still only 24 years old!

For me there’s absolutely no denying who the best player in the league is today.

Kawhi Leonard #NBAVOTEpic.twitter.com/zP2K0xi6w4

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) 26 dezembro 2015

Next: Join the SCS Writing Team

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

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