A rematch with the Golden State Warriors was the perfect opportunity to see what new Houston Rockets Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll could bring to the team.
The Houston Rockets have fully established their identity as a small-ball powerhouse, and the additions of Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll to the team appear to be the finishing touches. The two natural forwards were undoubtedly brought on board to help Houston’s depth and allow for the heavy-hitters on the team to play fewer minutes.
Given that Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets faithful wanted to get an early glimpse at the new additions, having a matchup with the lowly Golden State Warriors was just what the doctor ordered. Although the Warriors somehow defeated Houston on Christmas Day, this team is far from the one that laid an egg back in December.
The Rockets immediately pounced on the Warriors, establishing a 38-17 lead after one quarter behind hot shooting and suffocating defense. As the night went on, Golden State would never get close to the Rockets, getting down by as many as 35 points before falling 135-105.
The blowout allowed for DeMarre Carroll, who officially signed with the team just hours before tipoff, to get 13 minutes of action.
Assessing DeMarre Carroll’s Performance
It’s tough to fairly grade the effectiveness of someone that played just 13 minutes in a game before even practicing with the team. That said, I liked what I saw from Carroll on the court. DeMarre started off with an offensive rebound that was quickly stripped by Golden State. He followed that up, however, with another offensive rebound.
Carroll also showed some nice hustle in his few minutes, hitting the deck for a loose ball at one point and securing the basketball. For the most part, Carroll was simply hanging around the 3-point line on offense, occasionally running to the glass once a teammate was putting up a shot.
DeMarre did a great job of setting up teammates as well. His four assists were more than any Rocket not named Russell Westbrook or James Harden and included this beautiful touch-pass to P.J. Tucker in the corner, which can be seen at the 2:15 mark of this clip:
During the TNT broadcast, they relayed how Coach D’Antoni essentially just met Carroll earlier that day and wasn’t sure what to expect from the veteran, other than the fact that he knows how to play the game. It was nice to see him giving the new addition a shot so soon.
DeMarre was a bit loose with the ball, turning it over three times, but that’s to be expected given the circumstances. It will be interesting to see how Carroll adapts to his new environment after getting some practices under his belt, but he certainly did enough to pique my interest on Thursday.
Assessing Jeff Green’s Performance
If giving a 10-day contract to Jeff Green was meant to inspire him to play his way into a more important role with the team, well, it worked. The 6-8 forward took seven shots against Golden State and only missed one of them.
Going 4-of-5 from the outside and 6-of-7 overall, Green finished the night with 17 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. We’ve said it time and time again: to get decent minutes on the Rockets, you have to be able to bury the longball.
Jeff did just that in his first shot attempt as a member of the team:
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) February 21, 2020
Maybe it’s the system, maybe it was bad defense by Golden State, or maybe it was a combination of the two, but Green’s stroke looked silky smooth from the perimeter on a night where the Rockets nailed 25 shots from beyond the arc.
Defensively, Green seemed to catch on to the switch-everything strategy easily but got lost a few times, which is expected in his debut.
Jeff Green’s debut was reminiscent of Robert Covington‘s, in which he made an instant impact and immediately seemed to belong. While he will still need to play well against tougher opponents, his start with the team couldn’t have gone much better.
Perhaps the most important aspect of having Green and Carroll as options is that they can absorb some minutes from guys like P.J. Tucker, which can help preserve him for the playoffs. Tucker, Harden and Westbrook all played 30 minutes against the Warriors, which is a great sign going forward.
With D’Antoni’s love of a tight rotation, all eyes will be on the two newcomers to see what, if any, impact they have on the team as they make their playoff push.