"We back up! We back up! The price is back up!" yelled Rockets second-year forward Tari Eason after Jabari Smith Jr. hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the Rockets' opening Summer League contest against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was the sophomore forward's 33rd point of the game, and he proved to be an unstoppable force for the Blazers. Smith was quite literally the king of the jungle, showing why the Rockets drafted him with the third pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Smith looked like he shouldn't even have been out there, as he was in a league of his own, despite being the second-youngest player on the Rockets' Summer League roster.
But that wasn't the case through the entire contest. In fact, Smith struggled mightily in the first half, and that might be putting it politely. To add context, Smith had just 4 points on 1-of-6 from the field, 0-for-2 from deep, and 2-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Naturally, Rockets fans were quite concerned. Seemingly, Smith heard the whispers and frustrations and flipped the switch in the third quarter.
All in all, Smith had 18 points in the third, catapulting to the leading-scorer in the contest with 22 points at the end of the period. Smith exuded confidence, in spite of his first-half struggles and his game looked smooth.
Smith quite literally forgot about his poor first half showing and continued to pick his spots and take over the game. To no surprise, his stellar second-half continued throughout the fourth quarter, as he had 11 points in the final period, helping the Rockets come back in the game and offered this memorable finish.
Jabari Smith Jr. calls game
The shot was the highlight of the day in Vegas, but Smith's defensive contributions were just as impactful, particularly his game-saving block on the other end of the floor prior to the final possession.
Smith finished with 33 points on 8-of-18 shooting, going 3-of-8 from deep, and 14-of-17 from the charity stripe. It was a good sight to see from someone who's going to play a prominent role on the main squad likely for years to come.
Let's see what else Smith has in store for us over the next week.