John Wall Houston Rockets (Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)
The Houston Rockets started their four-game road trip with a win in New Orleans on Saturday night after an explosive second quarter. This was the first time the Rockets played the same starting lineup in back-to-back games.
They started off the game a little slow but were quickly able to get into an offensive rhythm in the second quarter to take over. They bent a little in the third quarter but didn’t break and after Zion Williamson sat down, they extended their lead and put the game away.
Considering the grueling schedule ahead with eight out of ten games being on the road, this was an important victory and brings the Rockets back to .500 for the season. This brings the Rockets up to 6-3 since the James Harden trade (3-6 before) and will only help the team grow in confidence on every level in their ability to compete.
The majority of the players on the Rockets currently are working hard to prove the doubters wrong. Whether that’s coming back from injury, recovering from a bad season, or having struggled to find a place in the NBA, this team is made from players that are coming out to prove themselves.
3 reasons the Houston Rockets were able to secure a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans
That tough mentality and endless effort was on full display again on Saturday and the Rockets showed sides of them that many didn’t believe they had anymore. While there were ups and downs in this game, it’s becoming clearer by the day that this team is playing as one unit and has a high ceiling, perhaps as high as an NBA championship.
Here are three observations from Saturday night’s game that highlighted why this team should be confident in its future.
Next: Observation #3
#3: The Houston Rockets are versatile offensively too
After the James Harden trade, the assumption was that the Rockets would be a decent defensive team with an average offense. Against the Pelicans, they showed us that they are still capable of putting up shots and catching fire just like they were in the Mike D’Antoni-Harden era.
After trailing the Pelicans 35-27 after the first quarter, the Rockets came out into the second quarter and lit up the scoreboard, going for 48 points, the most in franchise history for the second quarter and third most in any quarter.
A big part of that was the Rockets going 9-of-12 from beyond the arc and 16-of-24 from the field.
The reason the Rockets were able to hit so many shots was because of Christian Wood taking over the game. Wood is a matchup nightmare because he can hit the 3-point shot, he can play down in the post and he has a soft touch.
Combine that with his basketball vision and ability to handle the ball and it becomes very difficult for teams to guard him as was evident in the second quarter.
The offensive show the Rockets put on in the second did not keep them from showing up on the defensive end as well. They held the Pelicans to 22 points on 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range and 8-of-25 (32 percent) from the field.
This combination of defensive excellence with the team offense the Rockets play hints at the team’s scary potential.
Next: Observation #2
#2: The Houston Rockets have a legitimate Big Three
The combination of John Wall–Victor Oladipo-Christian Wood played only their second game together on Saturday night and their chemistry is already starting to grow. At the end of the first half, all three had scored double-digit points and by the end of the game had accounted for 63 points, 17 rebounds, and 16 assists.
Christian Wood’s unique athleticism at his size was causing problems all across the court and combining that with the star-caliber backcourt play from Wall and Oladipo gives them the truly exciting WOW factor.
The effort on both ends of the floor by these three not only helps them leave their mark on the game but it also motivates the rest of the team to work hard. This was clear in the second quarter when John Wall came back into the play to block Zion Williamson.
That play sparked the Rockets into a 32-11 (!!) run to end the half with a commanding 18-point lead. There were even some lob attempts from the Wall and Oladipo to Wood and even between Wall and Oladipo.
The execution left something to be desired but the intent was there and as these three get more time to play and practice with each other, the puzzle pieces to a legitimate big three will come together.
Next: Observation #1
#1: Stephen Silas is pulling all the right strings for the Houston Rockets
Another game, another great job by Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas and his staff in making adjustments to the game plan and confusing the opposition. As a first time head coach, Silas has done a masterful job keeping the team together through the Harden drama and he has been rewarded with a deep and versatile team that is motivated.
Against the Pelicans, Silas made plenty of moves to put the Rockets over the top, from playing David Nwaba extra minutes to boost the defense to starting Jae’Sean Tate at center to start the fourth. The staff kept changing things around and made the moves necessary to pull out the win.
These adjustments kept the team from playing a repetitive and predictable style of basketball that was the Achilles heel of the D’Antoni era. With the depth of this team, Coach Silas now has many different options to play around with and not all of them will work, but he isn’t afraid to try them.
This Rockets team has a lot to prove to all the naysayers and themselves, and Saturday night was another step in the right direction.
When a group of people with a common goal come together and act selflessly, good things usually happen and as this winning streak continues to grow, that goal is seeming more and more attainable.