Should Sam Dekker get playing time in game 6?
By Ben Casey
The Houston Rockets lost game 5 by three points in overtime after some Spurs heroics. Should D’Antoni change things up by giving Sam Dekker playing time in game 6?
Nene‘s injury made things extremely difficult for the Houston Rockets in game 5. Mike D’Antoni was forced to go with a foreign starting lineup to avoid his bench unit getting killed on the boards. Another effect of the Brazilian’s absence was that there were only seven Rockets who saw court time on Tuesday night.
D’Antoni is infamous for tightening up the lineup come playoffs and couldn’t bring himself to let Sam Dekker or Montrezl Harrell check in. It makes sense on paper to only play the best players in games where it really matters, but exhaustion is a real issue. Four Rockets logged over 40 minutes and nobody played fewer than 34 other than Lou Williams, who saw 25 minutes of action.
By the waning minutes of overtime, the team was clearly gassed. James Harden settled for threes instead of fighting to the hoop and turned the ball over thrice in the extra period. It was unusual enough to begin to question D’Antoni’s rotation logic.
In game 6 on Thursday, it may do Houston some good to let Dekker get some time. It makes sense to leave Montrezl out of the lineup considering his lack of size and three point shooting, but Dekker’s played well as a backup stretch four and should get a chance to hold his own while a more important player rests. Plenty of fans think so, at least.
If Harden's issue was fatigue, you have to get Dekker or Harrell 10 minutes to spell everyone.
— Taylor Pate (@taylorlpate) May 10, 2017
Not only fans, but former Rockets writer Calvin Watkins thinks so too. Maybe we’re onto something.
MDA needs to add to that rotation. Harrell-Dekker need some PT. Nothing major, just some early PT.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) May 10, 2017
To further cement the credibility of the idea, even known Rockets hater Shea Serrano conceded that Dekker would have swung the game Houston’s way.
i don't understand why d'antoni only went with 7 guys last night — if dekker gets 15 minutes in the game it's legit a W for the rockets
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) May 10, 2017
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Now don’t hear me say I think Sam Dekker is the missing link–he’s not. But he is a capable rebounder and defender, and he shot acceptably from three during the regular season. If Harden and Eric Gordon would have been able to sit for two or three extra minutes in the first half, the series could be tilted a different direction now.
For game 6, I sincerely hope D’Antoni considers the pleas of fans and gets some more players on the court. Playing against the Spurs with just seven guys is a death wish, proven by MDA’s storied lack of success against Gregg Popovich.
Sam Dekker could be the indirect answer to a lot of Houston’s problems. Let’s see if he’ll get a chance to prove it.
Next: 3 keys to beating San Antonio
Game 6 will begin at 7:00 CT on Thursday and will be broadcast on ESPN. It’s do or die for Houston–the season’s on the line.