The Houston Rockets absolutely dismantled the Shanghai Sharks for the second preseason in a row. Here are a few players that played well.
On Oct. 05 of 2017, the Rockets ran circles around the Shanghai Sharks. The game was essentially over after the first quarter and the Rockets won 144-82.
Clint Capela‘s bruised right hand that he suffered during Houston’s last game kept him off the court and Eric Gordon also missed the game with a sore right Achilles. Michael Carter-Williams, Isaiah Hartenstein and Marquesse Chriss also missed Tuesday night’s game. Even Carmelo Anthony was held out for rest.
None of it mattered.
The Rockets out scored the Sharks 38-20 in the first quarter. By halftime, Houston blew the lead up to 31 points. The Rockets nailed 28 3-pointers on a staggering 66 attempts, much to the delight of Mike D’Antoni. When the clock hit triple zeros, the final score read 128-86. Neither James Harden or Chris Paul played in the fourth quarter.
Luis Scola, who spent five years playing on some very good Rockets teams, returned to Toyota Center as a member of the Sharks. The Rockets played a very heartwarming tribute video on the jumbo-tron for the Argentinian before the start of the second quarter.
Zhou Qi also suffered a scary looking knee injury after Scola accidentally fell on his leg. Zhou was on the floor for the entire duration of Houston’s timeout and he was pushed off the court in a wheelchair. According to initial reports, Zhou suffered a left knee sprain, so hopefully he won’t miss too much time.
This game obviously wasn’t much of a test for the Rockets. However, playing in actual games is the only way for the Rockets to get in NBA shape as the regular season steadily approaches. Let’s check out the players that really showed up and showed out against the Shanghai Sharks.
Next: The Energizer Bunny
All of the offseason headlines pointed towards Carmelo Anthony, and deservedly so, but James Ennis could end up being Houston’s most important offseason acquisition. Losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute left a hole at small forward, but Ennis is filling it just fine so far.
Ennis is a bit more athletic than Ariza is at this point in his career and he’s also a better slasher. Ennis really gets after it and he always seems to be right there along P.J. Tucker fighting for every loose ball.
Ennis finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in this one. He made 6 of his 9 shot attempts and the Rockets were +37 while he was on the floor. Ennis ran the floor hard, finishing in transition several times.
In just a year with the team, P.J. Tucker has become a beloved player around Houston. Fans love his hustle, his defense and his heart. Ennis brings a lot of the same qualities to the court but in a thinner, more athletic build. I think James Ennis will quickly become a fan favorite as the year goes on.
Next: The Undrafted Surprise
Gary Clark spent four seasons playing college basketball for the Cincinnati Bearcats, but unfortunately, he wasn’t chosen during the draft back in June. Although, the Rockets took a shot at him, signing the forward back on July 05.
Clark had his best showing yet against the Sharks, finishing with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 27 minutes. He finished 5-for-5 from the floor and shot 4-of-6 from the 3-point line. At 6-foot-8, he’s big enough to play power forward, but he also has a good outside shot, which makes him a great fit with the Rockets.
Clark is now averaging 8 points on 52.4 percent shooting from the field and 53.3 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line in 16.4 minutes of play over four games. His 27 minutes against the Sharks was by far the most court time he’s seen in the preseason, as Mike D’Antoni needed extra bodies with so many guys out.
It was a very impressive showing for Clark, who’s hoping to make the Rockets roster. Of course, we have to take this big performance with a grain of salt, as the Shanghai Sharks are maybe the equivalent of a bad G-League team. Speaking of the G-League, maybe the Rockets will decide to keep Clark around on a two-way contract with Houston’s G-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Next: 3-and-D Specialist
P.J. Tucker made a strong preseason debut against the Spurs after dropping 19 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. A couple of nights later, Tucker outdid himself against the Sharks.
Tuck finished with 22 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists on 6-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. Tucker scored 13 of his 22 points in the first period alone and he also nailed 4 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
The versatile forward started this game at center with Clint Capela, Marquese Chriss and Nene all out. Tucker, who stands 6-feet-6 inches tall, found himself matched up with Zhang Zhaoxu, a 7-foot-3 giant. Tucker held the opposing center to just 10 points and 5 rebounds, so he was able to negate the size mismatch.
As great as Carmelo Anthony has been over his illustrious career, the Rockets are making the right move to start Tucker at power forward. Anthony isn’t in his prime anymore and he is best suited as a scorer off the bench. Tucker’s defensive versatility and hustle combined with his effectiveness as a corner 3-point shooter make him a must start.
Next: The MVP
After having rough shooting nights in his first three preseason games, the reigning MVP turned on the jets against the Shanghai Sharks.
James Harden came out the gates iron-hot, scoring 17 points and nailing 4 3-pointers in the opening period. Harden kept his foot on the gas over the next two quarters, finishing the game with 37 points, 9 assists and 3 steals on 9-of-14 shooting from distance.
After playing 31 minutes over the first three-quarters, Mike D’Antoni decided to rest Harden over the final period. It was a very wise decision, especially after Zhou Qi suffered a scary looking knee injury earlier in the game and Clint Capela suffered a bruised hand in the game prior. The last thing Houston needs is more injuries, especially for the face of the franchise.
Harden was in his usual bag of tricks in this one. Finishing in transition, dropping dimes left and right and launching 3-pointers at the rate of a machine gun all helped contribute to the opponent’s demise. Harden looks stronger this season, but still light on his feet. He also looks like he can win an MVP for a second consecutive season, but I have a feeling that a Finals MVP would be his trophy of choice.