‘Eight wins in a row,’ Houston dreams of the next ‘Bad Boys’

The Houston Rockets are one of the teams with the most nerves and ejections this season. From being the softest team in the league just last season, they have become the toughest team among the 30 teams in the NBA this season.

With a 147-119 victory over the Utah Jazz in the 2023-2024 NBA regular season at Toyota Center on Thursday night, the Rockets won their eighth straight game to get back to a 5.5 percent winning percentage (35 wins out of 35).

Now in 11th place in the West, the Rockets are just 1.5 games out of the 10th spot in the Western Conference, the final playoff spot.

The 10th spot in the West currently belongs to the Golden State Warriors. They have a slight lead over Houston with 36 wins and 33 losses, and with the way things have been going lately, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rockets push past Golden State for the last spot in the playoffs.

It’s quite remarkable that a team that won 22 games and lost 60 games last season is in the playoff hunt with a 5.5 percent chance of making the playoffs so close to the end of the season. To make matters worse, the Rockets are without their No. 1 option, Al-Farouq Sengoun, who was averaging 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game and is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery. How did the Rockets turn their season around and emerge as one of the play-in tournament’s biggest upsets without him?

Jaylen Green’s breakout year

The 2021 draft was a pretty good one, with Cade Cunningham (Detroit), Scottie Barnes (Toronto), Evan Mobley (Cleveland), and Franz Wagner (Orlando) among the top picks. Sengun, who has become Houston’s ace in the hole, was also a product of that draft, coming into the NBA with the 16th pick.

Houston’s second pick in the draft was a disappointment in more ways than one. Jaylen Green was selected second overall by the Rockets after showing explosive scoring ability in the G-League’s Ignite. With his explosive athleticism and creativity on the offensive end, he was expected to be the next top scorer.

However, Green has consistently underperformed expectations since entering the NBA. While he averaged around 20 points per game, he shot around 40% from the field and 30% from three-point range. His shooting efficiency was very poor, and his humiliating performance continued this season, much to the dismay of Houston fans.

After being labeled as a sore thumb, Green has really come into his own in the second half of the season. He started to look like the player he was expected to be when he made his debut.

After averaging 18 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game on 41% shooting from the field and 30.7% from three-point range in the first half, Green rebounded completely in the second half, averaging 24.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 46% shooting from the field and 40% from three-point range.

Green has always been criticized for having a lot of talent but not being able to utilize it. His athleticism is one of the best in the NBA and his dribbling ability is good, but he has an inefficient offense that doesn’t take advantage of it. He had a lot of weapons, but he never put them together.

This is due in large part to the incompetence of the Houston coaching staff. The Rockets were playing a very passive-aggressive brand of basketball under head coach Steve Silas until last season. The offense, led by Green and Kevin Porter Jr, who is now on his way out of the league, never felt organized.

But with the arrival of head coach Ime Udoka, who led the Boston Celtics to a runner-up finish in his first year in the league, the offense began to feel more disciplined, with minutes and field goal attempts controlled. The general consensus is that the patterns of the first half of the season were still there, but in the second half of the season, under a more efficient offensive system, they began to blossom.

To summarize, Green, who had a lot of ability but no system and no direction, blossomed when he found a stable system. There are many who believe that his talent will continue to blossom as he gains a better understanding of the system.

team colors #finally

If there’s one team in the NBA that’s been involved in the most fights lately, it’s the Houston Rockets.

In the past month alone, there have been a lot of on-court altercations. About three weeks ago, rookie Cam Whitmore got into a fight with Devin Booker after a trash talk during a game against the Phoenix Suns. Shortly after, Bradley Beal (Phoenix) was ejected for shoving Green. Two weeks ago against the San Antonio Spurs, rookie Amen Thompson got into a nerve-wracking altercation with opponent Jeremy Sohan. Two nights earlier against the Chicago Bulls, Dermar Drozan and Dillon Brooks were ejected together after an altercation, and in the second quarter against Utah on Nov. 24, Jabari Smith Jr. was ejected after a scuffle with Kris Dunn.

High-level brawls are never a good thing. Some of the recent brawls between Houston players have been unnecessary. However, there’s no denying that there’s been a lot of toughness among the Houston players in recent years. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the toughness that the Detroit Pistons once displayed when they were known as the Bad Boys.

Coming into this season, Houston already had the defense. Udoka, a defensive mastermind, had already improved their defensive rating from 29th in the league to 7th.

Still, it didn’t feel like a tough defense. Until recently. Lately, Houston’s players have been wearing down opponents with momentum, not just defense. They’re playing one more step ahead of their opponents, and they have the confidence to overwhelm them.

This can be seen in their recent winning streak. During the eight-game winning streak, there aren’t many games where the Rockets have held their opponents to 토토사이트 under 100 points. Instead, they’ve put up offensive numbers around 120 points, resigned to winning in ways other than their traditional team colors.

Earlier, I mentioned the recent increase in player fights. This is something that was rarely seen until last season. Most of the nervous battles with opponents come from fighting to win, trash-talking to provoke the other player, etc. The good news is that the players’ desire to win is unparalleled, and they are actually overpowering their opponents in terms of momentum.

This is exactly what Houston had in mind. New head coach Ime Udoka is not a coach known for his sophisticated offensive tactics, but rather a coach whose strengths lie in his tight defense and work ethic.

In offseason free agency, the team overpaid for Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Both are far from elite players who entered the NBA with top picks. As undrafted free agents and 45th overall picks in the second round, both players have risen through the ranks of the league’s respectable resources through grit. From the head coach to the free agent acquisitions, the focus has been on increasing the team’s toughness, and the result is a very tough team that doesn’t lose and makes opponents work for it.

The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s were once known as the Bad Boys. With Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, and other naturally tough players working in synergy to become the toughest team ever, they didn’t win many championships, but they are remembered as one of the most impactful teams in NBA history.

While the Bad Boys are still a long way from catching up, it’s encouraging to see them showing some signs of life. It’s a testament to a team color that was completely absent until last season, and no team can take Houston for granted anymore. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of performance is establishing a team color and keeping it consistent. Once that’s in place, performance will follow. It’s encouraging to see that Houston has a team color.

What’s the future?

The Rockets have some decent future assets, including an unprotected first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets. There’s also Jabari Smith Jr (2022 draft pick #3), rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore, whose potential has yet to be realized.

Most importantly, it’s the meteoric rise of established ace Senegun and Green’s second-half breakout. If they found Sengun in the first half, they found Green in the second half, and in the process, they’ve created a solid team color.

Most importantly, the coaching staff is one of the best in the league, with head coach Ime Udoka, who is still young in terms of pure experience but possesses the “devil’s talent” to lead the team to a runner-up finish in his first season, accomplishing in one fell swoop what his predecessor Brad Stevens couldn’t for years.

With a solid framework of guards, big men, and a head coach, it’s only a matter of time before they become a powerhouse. Houston certainly did that this season. They’ve gone from building for the future to threatening Golden State for the last spot in the play-in tournament. The Rockets are definitely the team to watch in the second half of the season.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *