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Rockets become popular pick in final rounds of 2K tournament

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Although the Houston Rockets were rarely used during the early rounds of the NBA 2K tournament, they were used in each of the final two rounds of the tournament.

When it was announced that the NBA was partnering with ESPN for a nationally-televised NBA 2K tournament, it seemed like a gimmicky idea, as we hadn’t seen this before on the NBA 2K front. What made matters worse for Houston Rockets fans is that no one from the team was included in the tournament.

But the idea has been wildly successful, as the ratings have been far better than anyone would have initially thought. In fact, the tournament has become ESPN’s most-watched esports broadcast in the history of the network.

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Part of it can be attributed to the hiatus, as people have been striving for any semblance of basketball. Deandre Ayton was the only player to use the Rockets leading into the semifinal round, despite being added to the list of desired teams by 9 other players. Ayton had success with the Rockets, as he advanced past the first round with a victory over Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine with a 57-41 victory.

During the semifinal round, former Rockets big man Montrezl Harrell decided to choose the Rockets during his matchup against Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately Harrell wasn’t as fortunate as Ayton, as he was defeated 68-54.

Harrell continued to take mid-range shots, which isn’t necessarily the best approach considering the construction of the roster, and simply couldn’t stop Booker’s LA Clippers from draining 3-pointers. For this reason, it wasn’t surprising that Harrell’s Rockets had a ten-point deficit at the half.

Booker stretched the lead out even more, as he had a 15-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, which was aided by Harrell’s consistent turnovers. Booker went with a small ball lineup of his own, as he played the trio of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and Landry Shamet for significant portions of the game.

Per the rules of the tournament, Harrell was granted a second game, as the final two rounds were in a best-of-three format. Harrell ultimately lost the second game as well, which officially eliminated him from the tournament.

Booker in championship round

Booker made it to the championship round and actually selected the Houston Rockets during his first game against his Suns teammate Deandre Ayton, although he made significant changes to the lineup. These changes include inserting Eric Gordon and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup, in favor of Danuel House and P.J. Tucker.

Booker’s Rockets shot absolutely lights out from 3-point range, which makes it nearly impossible to beat the Rockets, either in the video game or in real life. All in all, Booker’s Rockets made 57 percent from deep, while outrebounding Ayton’s Los Angeles Lakers 24-17.

Ayton kept it close through the first three quarters, as he was down 52-47. Ayton was able to go toe-to-toe with the Rockets because his Lakers were also on fire from long-range, as he shot 44 percent from behind the line. What was impressive is how Booker was able to withstand Ayton constantly pausing the game, which seemed like it happened 80 times.

Booker won the second game, which gave him a 2-0 lead in the series and gave him the crown in tourney. Booker selected the Denver Nuggets and Ayton chose the Milwaukee Bucks, which was the most commonly used team in the tournament.

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But what was most intriguing was that both players who reached the championship round played with the Rockets along the way.

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