Christian Wood (35) Houston Rockets Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets faced the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first time since Game 7 in the first round of the 2020 playoffs and came away with a 136-106 victory to extend their winning streak to six. This game was between two completely different teams, as it featured just four players that were starters from their last matchup.
The Rockets started the month of February the same way they ended January, with a double-digit victory and a 48-point quarter. After using their defensive prowess to win the majority of games on this win streak, the Rockets have flexed their offensive ability these past two games to show their versatility as a team.
Here are three takeaways from the Houston Rockets’ victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder
After coming out to slow starts in the last two games and coming back later in the game, Rockets coach Stephen Silas’ message to the team was to come out to a fast start. His team heard his call and came out on fire and ended the first quarter with a 48-24 lead. This was the second time in the last four quarters where the Rockets scored 48 points in a quarter.
With 19 games being played in the 28-day month of February, this will be a particularly tough stretch of games for the Rockets to get through. In Monday night’s game they hit a franchise record 28 3-pointers and gave the opposition no chance to compete.
If they continue to shoot the way the have these past two games, they can vault themselves into true contenders by the end of the month.
A franchise record 28 made 3s tonight from the squad! pic.twitter.com/A0AXmGVlcu
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) February 2, 2021
This team may not have James Harden anymore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t score at a high frequency anymore. From the first player to the fifteenth player, the entire Rockets squad has bought in and is playing intense and fun team basketball.
Here are three takeaways from Monday night’s game that highlight the identity of this Houston Rockets team.
Next: Takeaway #3
#3: The Houston Rockets’ depth is for real
After going through years of top-heavy teams and short rotations, this year the Rockets finally have a deep bench that is getting playing time. In previous years, a key issue the Rockets have faced is fatigue and exhaustion because they played eight-man rotations night in and night out.
In Monday night’s game, there was not a single player for the Rockets who played more than 27 (!!) minutes. With players coming off of key injuries that have hampered their careers, the ability to win games comfortably while keeping the entire team well-rested is a huge bonus.
Seven (7) players in double figures for the #Rockets
— Roosh (@RooshWilliams) February 2, 2021
Not only does this help the team stay healthy, it also allows more players to gain real game experience and grow confidence in their abilities. Having the majority of the bench get minutes keeps the entire team engaged and helps grow the team spirit and unity that these Rockets are showing on a daily basis.
This will give Coach Silas and his staff a chance to continue to use different lineups and trust more players in key situations.
This team’s selfless nature shines through both on and off the court and with so many players getting a chance to play, that camaraderie will only continue to grow.
Next: Takeaway #2
#2: Houston Rockets John Wall is increasing his range
Throughout his time in the nation’s capital, John Wall was always considered an explosive player with a high basketball IQ. The one flaw of his game was his ineffective 3-point shot. So far with the Rockets, Wall has proven that he has kept his explosiveness and IQ from his Washington days while developing a 3-point shot.
In Monday night’s game, Wall went 4-of-5 (80 percent) from beyond the arc on his way to scoring 18 points, alongside five assists and six rebounds in just 21 minutes of playing time. If Wall can keep shooting at an above average clip from 3-point territory, he becomes nearly unguardable.
If you contest him closely, he’ll drive past you. If you give him space, he’ll take the triple. If you double him, he’ll create for his teammates.
Wall’s efficiency on 3-pointers was part of the entire team’s explosion that led them to tying an NBA record 11 made 3-pointers in the first quarter and a franchise record 28 3-pointers for the game.
John Wall credits his improved shooting to the fact that he can jump again. Says he played with bone spurs for 2 years before his achilles tear
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) February 2, 2021
The team as a whole shot a combined 28-for-52 (53.8 percent) from beyond the arc and that is, in large part, due to the team’s offensive philosophy.
Next: Takeaway #1
#1: The Houston Rockets move the ball for the best shot
The complete selflessness of the team is apparent on every play, with not a single player letting their ego get in the way of the team’s success. The days of playing heavy iso-ball are gone and in its place, Coach Silas has instilled his ball movement schemes and pace that the Rockets have been using to blitz their opponents.
Coach Silas wants the Rockets to play intense and tough defense to force turnovers and then sprint out with the team’s athleticism to get fast and easy buckets. In the half-court offense, he has gotten the team to buy in on spreading the ball around and trusting each other.
It’s a message that has clearly gotten across with the players talking about in pregame and postgame press conferences. Whether it’s from the sidelines cheering for the team or on the court showing their tenacity, every single player is focused on the team’s success. This is a team that is completely behind their coach and the results are showing in every aspect of the game.
Being a Rockets supporter with all the expectations of the past few years has led to several heartbreaking moments and that stress was visible throughout the franchise. While the outside world may not believe in them, this Rockets team continues to believe in themselves and strive for the ultimate goal that this franchise hasn’t attained since 1995.
The difference is that this team is united and having fun.
Stephen Silas: "I'm having a blast. I’m having fun. I’m not gonna wait 20 years to be a head coach and not have fun doing it, so even when times are hard and even when times are shaky as they were in the beginning I'm going to have fun throughout the time…." pic.twitter.com/ffL932xDbB
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) February 2, 2021
The joy that the players have is making every win that much more enjoyable and inspiring Rockets players and fans all around, with the hope that this team may just take us back to the championship. There are many obstacles in the way to that, but this team isn’t backing down from any of them and will be back to show that against the Thunder again on Wednesday night.