Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers game preview - November 18

Houston Rockets v Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets v Indiana Pacers / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers: X-Factor

While the Rockets’ X-factor on a team-wide level will be their transition defense, on an individual level, it’s Alperen Sengun. Sengun’s offensive strengths align nicely with some of the Pacers’ defensive weaknesses. 

The Pacers commit a ton of shooting fouls and allow their opponents to shoot the third most free throws per game. Sengun’s .523 free throw to field goal attempt rate is elite, and it would be wise for the Rockets to grind out the game through Sengun post ups. The Pacers have done an excellent job defending shots at the rim, but foul trouble has a way of changing that. 

Another bonus of playing old school is that it will give the Rockets an improved ability to defend transition. Let Sengun bully his way into the post, get a shot or kick out, and then have him be the lone offensive rebounder as the rest of the team retreats to fight another day. Sengun is an elite offensive rebounder, and letting him do the heavy lifting there to protect a weakness that is your opponent’s strength is simply a good strategy. 

Defensively, Sengun is going to need to play the game of his life. He has looked solid this season in drop coverage, but the Rockets are going to need him to venture beyond the 3-point line and contest shots. The Pacers simply have too many talented 3-point shooters for him to play the drop possession after possession. 

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Sengun will get burned, but he has to remain disciplined and not foul. Sometimes the right decision is admitting defeat. Earning two extra fouls to take away one point after your opponent goes three of four from the line isn’t worth the extra six minutes on the bench. Sengun is a surprising shot blocker, but his value is on the offensive end.