Wednesday, January 19 2022

For a third consecutive game, the young Houston Rockets led well into the second half, on the road against a perceived Western Conference contender. But for a third straight time, they couldn’t close it out, and they’re now 1-8 on the season with seven consecutive losses.

After taking a 94-89 lead into the final two minutes, Aaron Gordon connected on back-to-back 3-pointers as the host Denver Nuggets (5-4) rallied to Saturday’s 95-94 victory (box score). Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic collected a game-high 28 points and 14 rebounds.

Daniel Theis (18 points, 66.7% FG) led the Rockets in scoring and hit a big 3-pointer to put his team up by 5 points with 2:46 left. Unfortunately, that was the last point that Houston would score. Jae’Sean Tate had his last-second attempt at a potential winning shot blocked by Jokic.

“We needed this,” Theis said in a deflated postgame interview. “We worked so hard, and we still end up losing.”

See below for highlights from Saturday’s game, and read on for our assessment of individual Houston performances. Grades are limited to players who had clear rotation minutes, since anything less wouldn’t represent a sufficient enough sample to evaluate. Grades are also decided relative to a player’s average performance — in other words, the standard for Christian Wood is higher than for David Nwaba.

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All-A Honor Roll

Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

  • Daniel Theis (A): 18 points, 8-of-12 shooting (66.7%), 5 rebounds, 2 steals; plus/minus of -7 in 32 minutes

  • KJ Martin (A): 11 points, 3-of-5 shooting (60.0%), 3 blocks; plus/minus of +4 in 19 minutes

  • Eric Gordon (A-): 12 points, 5-of-7 shooting (71.4%), 4 rebounds, 3 assists; plus/minus of +3 in 29 minutes

  • Jae’Sean Tate (A-): 10 points, 4-of-7 shooting (57.1%), 8 rebounds; plus/minus of -4 in 31 minutes

Now in his first season with the Rockets, Theis had his best game with the team to date. He was efficient from the field, hit a key 3-pointer late, and played tough defense inside versus Jokic.

Martin had 3 key blocked shots, most in transition, and Gordon played well enough that head coach Stephen Silas decided to close the game with rookie Jalen Green on the bench. Tate again made more than half of his shots and played his usually tough brand of defense.

Mixed Results (Bs)

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

  • Christian Wood (B+): 12 points, 4-of-11 shooting (36.4%), 17 rebounds, 4 turnovers; plus/minus of +2 in 37 minutes

  • Alperen Sengun (B): 9 points, 3-of-4 shooting (75%), 4 rebounds, 3 assists; plus/minus of +8 in 14 minutes

Wood again showcased his improved strength with a game-high 17 rebounds, but he couldn’t create offense when Houston needed it down the stretch. Sengun was much improved in a reserve role, but 4 fouls in 14 minutes indicates that it’s still a learning experience for the rookie.

Needs Improvement (Cs or worse)

Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

  • Jalen Green (C): 9 points, 3-of-9 shooting (33.3%), 2 assists, 2 rebounds; plus/minus of -11 in 31 minutes

  • Kevin Porter Jr. (D): 6 points, 2-of-14 shooting (14.3%), 4 assists, 3 rebounds; plus/minus of -8 in 32 minutes

  • Stephen Silas, head coach

Denver made just 9-of-40 from 3-point range (22.5%), but the Rockets couldn’t escape with the win because their young backcourt was similarly inefficient, including 2-of-12 on 3-pointers (16.7%). Porter’s line included a missed dunk in the second half, which proved to be critical.

Silas also deserves some questioning, because in a season with development as a clear emphasis, Green was pulled from a close game with 3:09 left (for Gordon) and did not return. Since Gordon was shooting well, it wasn’t an inexplicable decision by itself — but the decision to not call timeout in the final 10 seconds, once the Rockets grabbed possession down a point, was curious in context. After all, Green is their best athlete for a chaotic transition sequence, and he wasn’t on the floor.

Silas, Green, and Porter will have a quick opportunity to make amends, since Houston plays Sunday night at Golden State to wrap up their first back-to-back sequence of the 2021-22 season. Tipoff is at 7:30 Central.

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Source: Yahoo Sports

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