Rockets: Can P.J. Tucker be the X-factor if Russell Westbrook is limited?

P.J. Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
P.J. Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

With the Houston Rockets in need of additional offensive firepower, P.J. Tucker will need to provide the spark the Rockets have been missing.

It’s been known that Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker has been the unheralded hero for the Rockets, as Tucker is one of the best 3-and-D players in the league. Tucker’s defense has been all-league worthy, and he’s consistently been the league’s best corner 3-point shooter.

Although Tucker is regarded as a non-scorer, which is corroborated by his 6.9 points per game during the 2019-20 season, there’s been a correlation between Tucker’s scoring and the Rockets’ success. Tucker scored in double-figures in 18 games this past season, and the Rockets went 14-4 during such games, which represents a 78 percent clip.

Tucker has also proven to be one of the league’s most durable players, as we’ve seen him fight through any injury and play through it. Tucker has played through a root canal and even fought through shoulder injuries during the 2019-20 season, while still playing a career-high 34.3 minutes per game.

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Tucker recently disclosed that he’s been playing through nerve damage, which further illustrates his ability to play through pain.  But with Russell Westbrook deemed a game-time decision, the Rockets need Tucker’s scoring even more, and he’s answered the call, as he’s averaged 10.3 points on 44 percent through the first four games of the series.

Can Tucker provide the spark the Rockets have been needing?

Tucker’s effect on the series was explained by former Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who appeared on Sports Radio 610 on Tuesday.

“I think the key is a guy we had with the Phoenix Suns, and that’s PJ Tucker, who is one of my favorite players in the league. As you guys know, he’s an absolute warrior, he plays through pain, it looks like his neck is not right.

You guys have seen him during the game getting massaged. PJ will play through whatever, he plays through alot of things many players would sit out with. Now that being said, he’s going to be open in the corner offensively and I know that Houston is asking him to do alot, they’re asking him to bang with bigger guys like Steven Adams, who is a monster defensively.

And then offensively to knock down open corner threes. And those shots have been there, and I think they’ll continue to be there. That’s the blueprint for the Rockets, especially with Westbrook out of the lineup.”

Although Tucker is one of the better defenders in the league, he’s gotten in foul trouble in the series against the Thunder. To add color to that, Tucker had five fouls in each of the last two games, which certainly hindered his ability to be as aggressive as usual on the defensive end of the floor.

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But with the Rockets in need of additional scoring, Tucker will have to play even better than he already has for the Houston Rockets to advance to the next round.