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Despite loss, Rockets come to play in Game 2

Now this was something to build on. The Rockets didn’t leave victorious Wednesday night, falling 105-102 in Game 2, and they come back to Houston in an 0-2 hole, but for the first time in this matchup, the Rockets look like they’re ready to make it a series.



Patrick Beverley and Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets

The outcome didn't change, but Beverley and the Rockets were a different team in Game 2

Now this was something to build on.

The Rockets didn’t leave victorious Wednesday night, falling 105-102 in Game 2, and they come back to Houston in an 0-2 hole, but for the first time in this matchup, the Rockets look like they’re ready to make it a series.

Patrick Bleepin’ Beverley

The Rockets adjusted their starters for this one, taking out Greg Smith and going with a three guard lineup of Patrick Beverley, James Harden and Jeremy Lin.

It paid off, and that’s because of Beverley.

The 6-foot-1 guard, who just four months ago was playing in Russia, got his first NBA start, and oh by the way… it was against one of the league’s elite point guards in a hostile arena in a critical playoff game. He responded with 16 points on 7-13 shooting (2-4 from deep), 12 rebounds (including 5 key offensive boards), 6 assists, 2 steals and a block.

The stats were terrific, but his impact was clearly visible when guarding Russell Westbrook (29 points on 10-26 shooting). You’re not going to stop Westbrook, but you can make it tough on him and get in his head, forcing him to try to do too much to compensate. Beverley did both. I initially thought he was playing like a poor man’s Rajon Rondo, but probably a better comparison for his impact was Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe — a quick, athletic, aggressive guard who goes hard on both ends. I think the TNT broadcaster summed it up best: “Patrick Beverley, how tough are you?!”

I can not see any way Kevin McHale goes away from heavy minutes for Beverley. His impact was the biggest difference between the Game 1 blowout and the Game 2 thriller.

Harden and Lin

James Harden finished with 36 points and he made some tough shots. He couldn’t hit from long range (1-7), but what I liked was that he was more efficient inside the arc (8-17, 47%) and feasted at the free throw line (17-20). This is the straw that stirs the drink and sets the stage for everything else.

I thought starting Beverley and letting him focus on guarding Westbrook was a good move for Lin, who needs to become an offensive weapon if the Rockets are to have any chance in the series. I think Lin played fairly well in the first half (7 points on 3-7 shooting, 3 assists, 4 boards), but he collided with Thabo Sefolosha late in the first half and suffered a muscle contusion in his right chest area and had to sit out the second half (see video).

Three-Pointers Not Falling

At this point, Houston’s early to mid-season dominance from three-point range seems a distant memory. They are hitting 32.4% from distance in their last 19 games and shooting just under 30 of them a night. If compared to season-long numbers, that would be more three-point attempts per game than any other team and at the second worst efficiency (trailing only Minnesota).

Yet, in Game 2, that lowly percentage could have been good enough to win the game. The Rockets were just 10-35 (28.6%) from distance. Simply put, the Rockets can not win this series unless Chandler Parsons (4-15 in the series), Carlos Delfino (5-17), Harden (2-13) and Lin (1-7) start connecting from downtown.

Finding The Open Man

Another big difference between the two games was that the Rockets were moving the ball around trying to find the open man. If they had knocked down a few more threes, they win this game. Period.

A really good play where you can see the Rockets’ good ball movement is with 8:00 left in the second quarter. The ball is thrown to Harden between wing and baseline and he’s immediately doubled by Greg Smith’s man. Derek Fisher leaves Lin to body up Smith and Lin is calling for the ball on the weak side because he’s wide open.

Ball movement saves the day. Harden quickly whips it to Beverley who wastes no time finding Lin. With Fisher quickly trying to recover, Lin pulls the trigger on a three on the bounce and nails it. Both the quick passing and Lin’s lack of hesitation in getting it off are things we didn’t see in Game 1. Far too often, Lin hesitates and lets the defense get set and Houston’s offense has to reboot. That didn’t happen here and it paid off.

Smith’s Struggles

Greg Smith has played a total of 31 minutes in two games in this series and the Rockets have been outscored by 49 points in that time. FORTY-NINE!

His two-minute stretch in the third quarter was disastrous as a tied game became an 11-point Rocket deficit during that stretch when he came in to play center for Omer Asik (9 points, 14 boards).

He watched Westbrook go baseline by him — fouling him on the body — and the speedy guard scored with ease. Three-point play. He miscommunicated with Aaron Brooks on a simple pass and he let it go by him out of bounds. Turnover. And with 3:55 left in the third, we probably saw the biggest demonstration of the problem.

Smith is guarding Kendrick Perkins, who runs up to the three-point line top of the key to set a screen to free Westbrook. Smith’s problem is two-fold: He comes out way too far on the wing and incorrectly reads the direction of the screen. As a result, Perkins hits Chandler Parsons hard with the pick and Westbrook sees daylight. He bursts through an open lane down the middle and cuts through for an easy deuce… and to boot, Smith fouls him by trying to swipe his shoulder from behind.

It’s not all Smith’s fault, but this is a tough one. We’ve always known the Rockets lose a lot when Asik goes out, but Smith has been especially ineffective so far in this series. It will be interesting to see if this opens the door for rookie Terrence Jones.

Little Help, Refs?

I’m not blaming the officials for the outcome here, but there were two calls in this game that really bothered me.

With 1:01 left in the fourth and the Rockets down just one, Sefolosha hit a wide open three-pointer that essentially won this game, but you can clearly see why no one is near him: Kendrick Perkins is playing tug-of-war with Chandler Parsons’ wrist, literally holding him and pulling him in to keep him from closing out on the shooter. The official is standing right there looking at the two of them (see the play).

It reminded me of the 2008 playoffs when Luis Scola was called for an offensive foul on Andrei Kirilenko just as Bobby Jackson hit a three that would have tied the game against the Jazz. That one was against the home team in the final minute and nowhere near as egregious. Perkins should have been called for an offensive foul and the final minute would have been a different game strategically.

To a lesser extent, the technical that was called on Greg Smith in the second quarter for staring down his opponent after a dunk frustrated me because of the timing. That’s a fairly standard call by the book, but it came on the tail end of a two-minute temper tantrum by Russell Westbrook where he was essentially doing the same thing multiple times.

Westbrook was furious that Beverley tried to go for a steal while he was calling timeout with under 6 minutes to go in the second quarter. The OKC guard fell down trying to spin away from it and came up hobbling on his knee while looking over at the Rocket bench. So you knew how Westbrook was going to react. With 5:22 left in the second quarter, Westbrook stares down Beverley, then violently slaps his hand away. With 5:02 left, he stares down Beverley again after scoring a fast break bucket. With 4:47 left after a foul, Westbrook walks up to the Rockets bench and talks trash. With 4:03 left, Westbrook slaps Beverley’s hand away when he tried to help him up.

No technical on any of those plays.

45 seconds later, Greg Smith grabs an offensive board, throws down a dunk on Ibaka and he flexes and stares at him. Out comes the whistle.

Again, if you want to call it, great — but keep it consistent.


I had forgotten what it was like when your team is in a tight playoff matchup late — your stomach feels like it’s in your throat. This was an intense, exciting game that showed the Rockets have come to play. The Rockets held the Thunder to 15 points fewer than they averaged against Houston in their first four matchups, and the Rockets’ impressive 21-2 run in the fourth quarter, turning a 15-point disadvantage into a 4-point lead in less than six minutes, inspires hope. I expect the Thunder to play better, but the Rockets are capable of much more as well — especially from long distance. Game 3 is going to be a dogfight.

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Armed with a bizarre fascination for Mario Elie and a deep love of the Houston Rockets, Dave Hardisty started ClutchFans in 1996 under the pen name “Clutch”.

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Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Draft Decisions: Who Will Be the #3 Pick?




Houston Rockets Podcast

It’s officially NBA Draft Week!

The weeks of speculation are coming to an end as we’ve just about arrived at the 2024 NBA Draft. The Rockets hold picks #3 and #44 and could be quite active on the trade market.

Dave Hardisty and David Weiner paired up on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the options before the Houston Rockets as they approach the June 26th NBA Draft. Is it really down to Donovan Clingan and Reed Sheppard as options? The pair also discuss trade-down options and whether Devin Carter could be intriguing to Ime Udoka. And are the Rockets a darkhorse for a Paul George trade?

The podcast premieres at 8:00am CT! Come join us!


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Houston Rockets

Podcast: Houston Rockets options with the #3 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft




Houston Rockets 2024 NBA Draft prospects Zaccharie Risacher Stephon Castle Reed Sheppard Donovan Clingan

The offseason is now underway.

The forecast looks good for the Houston Rockets, but… there’s pressure as well this offseason because there are a handful of other West teams that might have rosier futures. Ime Udoka wants to win and win big. As we are about five weeks away from the NBA Draft, what are the Rockets looking to do this summer?

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Rockets shockingly landing the #3 pick and their options in this draft, including Reed Sheppard, Donovan Clingan, Zaccharie Risacher, Stephon Castle, Matas Buzelis and others. They also discuss the possibility of some big game hunting in Houston.


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Podcast: Steven Adams, Mikal Bridges and Trade Possibilities for the Rockets




Houston Rockets Trade Deadline 2024

The Houston Rockets already made one deal, acquiring center Steven Adams from Memphis for a handful of second-round picks, but we still have several days left before this Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline.

Are more deals on the way?

Rumors of interest in Mikal Bridges have swirled, with the Rockets holding precious (and unprotected) first-round picks from Brooklyn. They also could use some help inside this season, which Adams can not provide. Shooting is always in demand.

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Adams trade, its impact on the Rockets in 2024-25 and beyond, the Mikal Bridges rumors, the Brooklyn picks, other trade possibilities and options for Rafael Stone moving forward. Also discussed is the play of Houston’s core 6 prospects: Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and Jalen Green.


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Houston Rockets

Rockets trade for center Steven Adams




Steven Adams Houston Rockets

The Rockets made a surprise trade on Thursday, sending the contract of Victor Oladipo and three second-round picks to Memphis for center Steven Adams.

The deal came together quickly and the Rockets had a small window to get it done, hence why this trade was made with a week to go until the trade deadline.

The Price

When you consider that Memphis did this for cost savings primarily and that Adams would not play for any team in the league this season, the price seemed a little high to me. The Rockets gave up the OKC second-round pick this year, which is no big loss, but they also give up the better of Brooklyn’s or Golden State’s second-round pick this season. That’s a pretty good pick (likely in the late 30’s). They also give up the better of Houston’s or OKC’s second-round pick in 2025. If things go as planned for the Rockets, that pick should be in the 45-55 range.

But they didn’t sacrifice a first-round pick, which would have been brutal, and they were not going to use all those seconds this season. So it’s just a matter of opportunity cost — who else could they have gotten for this package?

My understanding is they (particularly Ime Udoka) are very high on Adams.

The Rockets also did this move for cap purposes as well. By moving out the Oladipo contract, which was expiring, and bringing in Adams’ deal, which is signed for $12.4M next season, the window for the Rockets to put together a trade package for a star player is extended out until the 2025 trade deadline. They continue to wait to see which players, if any, shake loose here and become available. They want flexible (see: expiring) contracts that they can combine with assets and this gives them another year to be in that position.

The Trade

It’s not often that the Rockets acquire a player I had not considered beforehand but that’s the case with Steven Adams. The Rockets sorely need a big with size that provides more traditional center strengths, making Clint Capela, Robert Williams, Nick Richards or Daniel Gafford potential candidates, but Adams was overlooked for a few reasons.

First, the 30-year old big man is out for the season after knee surgery cost him the entire 2023-24 campaign, so the Rockets won’t get any benefit from this trade this season. Secondly, Adams is not your traditional center either when it comes to rim protection.

But what Adams does do, he’s really good at and he has some of the same strengths of Brook Lopez, who the Rockets tried to sign in the offseason. Adams is quite possibly the strongest guy in the league and a legitimate 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He’s an outstanding screen-setter, something that could really benefit the likes of Fred VanVleet, Amen Thompson and Jalen Green. He was also an elite rebounder last season, finishing 6th in the league in caroms at 11.5 a game despite playing just 27.0 minutes a contest.

After watching Jonas Valanciunas absolutely bully the Rockets inside on Wednesday, it should be apparent by now to everyone that this was a pretty big need.

In 2021-22, the Memphis Grizzlies finished #2 in the West at 56-26. Their top two players in Net Rating that season were Dillon Brooks (+11.0) and Adams (+8.3), key cogs in a defense that held opponents to 108.6 points per 100 possessions. They’re both now Houston Rockets.

So this adds another trusted vet to Ime Udoka’s rotation.

The question is will the 30-year old Adams return to form after the knee injury? Adams sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a year ago, which cost him the end of that season and the playoffs. He tried rehabbing it and it never got better, so surgery became the option just as this season was kicking off.

I like to think the Rockets did their due diligence on that, despite the short time it took for this deal to come together, but that’s unclear.

If he does bounce back, then Udoka has a big man he can turn to reliably in situational matchups or on nights when the younger bigs struggle. He wouldn’t be Boban or even Jock Landale in that scenario — he’s going to play, so the frontcourt depth in 2024-25 should be better. In the end, they got a starting-caliber center who will have no problems coming off the bench, and that’s what they were looking for.

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Houston Rockets

On the KPJ trade and future of the Rockets




The Houston Rockets are back to being a professional NBA team once again.

The Rockets finally ended the Kevin Porter Jr. era on Tuesday, coughing up two second-round picks in order to unload his contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder, getting back the contract of Victor Oladipo and third-year forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The move puts an end to a long investment and very rocky tenure with KPJ.

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Porter Jr. Experiment, the price paid to move him, Houston’s potential trade options moving forward, the new culture and the current state of the Rockets young core.

ClutchFans Podcast: On Apple | Spotify

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