With the Houston Rockets hampered by injuries, Austin Rivers carried the team to a victory over the Sacramento Kings.
The Houston Rockets entered their Sunday matchup against the Sacramento Kings with a 43-25 record, which was much better than the Kings’ 29-40 record. The Rockets were playing without Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon for their second consecutive game, and it was evident from the opening tip.
The Kings got off to a 13-point lead in the opening quarter, as the Rockets had six turnovers and went 4-of-18 from 3-point land. But the Rockets stormed back in the second quarter to seize the lead, as they led 61-56 at the half, which wouldn’t have been possible without Austin Rivers, who had 11 points in the quarter, on 4-of-4 from the field and made both of his threes.
Rivers was the leading scorer at the half, as he had 19 points on 80 percent from deep, which helped mask James Harden‘s early struggles. Harden had 17 points on 1-of-6 from deep (16.7 percent) and also had three turnovers through the first two quarters.
Rivers accounted for the bulk of the Rockets’ 27 points from the second unit, which was much needed. The Rockets shot 7-of-13 from deep in the second quarter, which helped spark a comeback.
The Rockets led 93-71 heading into the fourth, as they got their shots to fall and reduced their turnovers in the third period. Robert Covington also found his shot in the third quarter, as he went two-for-three from the floor and 50 percent from long-range.
James Harden started to heat up in the second half, as he finished with 32 points, while the Rockets were 24 points better with him on the floor, which was a game-high. Harden went 10-of-21 for the game, and provided a lot of encouragement for Austin Rivers, who made it clear after the game that Harden and Russell Westbrook gave him the green light when he had the hot hand.
Rivers: "When you have a guy like James Harden telling you to go and Russell Westbrook telling you to go and that no one can stop you, that's coming from two of the best players in the NBA. I don't know what else you need."
— Anthony Duckett (@a_duckett) August 10, 2020
Rivers finished with a career-high 41 points, on 14-of-20 from the field (70 percent) and 6-of-11 from deep (54.5 percent), while adding six rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 33 minutes of action, and it’s safe to say the Rockets wouldn’t have pulled out a victory without his contributions. The Houston Rockets won the rebounding differential by a margin of 48-41, which was their first time in the bubble, and their bench outscored the Kings 62-54.
The Rockets managed to pull off a victory despite shooting 31.6 percent from long-range, which will certainly have to improve in the postseason. But the Rockets will gladly accept a victory, regardless of how ugly it looks, especially without one of their best players.