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5 takeaways from Rockets impressive win over Pelicans

Rockets Pelicans, Rockets Takeaways

The Rockets’ win over the Bulls was probably their most impressive victory of this six-game winning streak, but Sunday night against the Pelicans is probably the second most impressive. Houston was missing their starting backcourt in an already weak guard rotation and they had to improvise the entire game. From the playmaking aspect of things to constructing lineups, everything’s just been turned upside down for the Rockets as soon as they’ve caught a rhythm.

Let’s see what’s important to take away from Sunday.

Rockets Takeaways

1. The return of two-big lineups

Head coach Stephen Silas has been pretty coy about revealing his starters all season. Sunday night was the peak of this as he had indicated that he was leaning Armoni Brooks or Danuel House as the possible fifth starter replacement before deciding it would be Daniel Theis an hour before the game. It was a complete curveball that few saw coming since Houston had abandoned playing two traditional big men at once.

However, Silas went with what he was most comfortable with from a matchup perspective.

“I thought it was necessary tonight because of Valančiūnas, his rebounding, and his physicality,” said Silas after the game. “Having Theis out there helps with that. It was good.”

The Rockets actually started the game about as bad offensively as one might predict, with 6 turnovers in the first quarter alone. Their luck coincidentally turned when Theis went to the bench and Wood played center. The ball started finding rhythm again and three-pointers were going in left and right. Silas went with another two-big lineup in the fourth quarter and Houston’s lead fell from 15 to 8.

Now, it’s hard to argue that Silas isn’t in a tough position. His two starting guards are out and he’s having to remake his gameplan on the fly. However, doubling down on a strategy that clearly isn’t reaching the kinds of result they want doesn’t seem wise. It doesn’t look like the two-big lineups are going away anytime soon.

“There’s going to be times where it’s necessary to play two bigs together,” said Silas. “We’ll see more of it because the lineups and matchups necessitate it.”

2 . Rockets turn the corner in crunch time play

The Rockets were perhaps the worst crunch time offense in the NBA before this winning streak. During the streak, particularly on Sunday, Houston looked pretty competent with the ball in the hands of veteran guard Eric Gordon as a calming presence. Veteran guard D.J. Augustine has also found himself in these moments.

“In the beginning, frankly we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Silas after the game. “We hadn’t been through those experiences. We had just had training camp. And then we had game after game with guys who hadn’t been through those moments. The more we do it, the better we get at it. It’s still super early in the season.

Even though he’s been publicly disenchanted with the losing this season, Eric Gordon has been an absolute professional with the Rockets. He’s played in every game he’s been available, he’s practiced hard with the group, and he even worked with Alperen Sengun after practice on Saturday for pick and roll drills and form shooting from three-point range.

3. It has become forward K.J. Martin’s goal to embarrass someone every game

It’s impressive how productive K.J. Martin has been able to be for the Rockets considering his shot diet has mostly been clean-up dunks and layups. However, he’s shot a high percentage on them. Martin will often use his springs to crash the glass and try and dunk over someone when they don’t even see it coming. He had a pretty crazy one tonight where he jumped over N Alexander-Walker to get the poster put-back dunk.

It would not surprise anyone this year if Martin manages to score over 20 points this season in a game with just his put-back dunks and layups. He just knows how to finish around the basket.

“No, but I think about it though because he’s so athletic and bouncy,” said Wood after the game on if he ever sees Martin coming from behind him in the paint for these put-backs. “He’s caught so many guys sleeping with his ability to be on the glass. That’s what we need. We need it from everybody especially with the big guys trying to box out Hernangomez and Valančiūnas.”

4. The Rockets have taken on a more egalitarian approach to their offense without Kevin Porter Jr.

Kevin Porter Jr. was doing a ton of the playmaking for Houston before he went out again with his thigh contusion. Now that he’s gone, the Rockets have nobody waiting in the wings to fill his role. As a result, they’ve not even bothered to try and instead have given the ball to several different ball handlers. This includes, Eric Gordon, Alperen Sengun, D.J. Augustine, Danuel House, and Jae’Sean Tate who should all get usage bumps.

“Without [Kevin Porter Jr.], Eric’s going to have to do it,” said Silas. “JT’s going to have to do it. When Al P’s in the game, he’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot. It’s going to be by committee. Eric’s a combo guard and DJ’s a true point guard, but beyond that, we don’t really have much ball handling.”

5. Eric Gordon may be having one of those annual runs right now

Every season, Eric Gordon has a month where he’s healthy, in rhythm, and looks like the best role player in basketball. With his increased minutes and usage rate, it may actually not be far from the truth. It looks like the Rockets are getting that version of Gordon this month. This also coincides with Porter Jr.’s absence from the team.

Eric Gordon (last two games):

23.5 points

60.7% from the field

53.8% from three-point range

100% from the free throw line

“I’m all about winning,” said Gordon after the game. “As soon as I stepped foot here in Houston, I came here to win. I was going to take on any role whether I came off the bench or started.”

Unless the Rockets swerve the entire NBA and keep Eric Gordon, it looks like he’ll have an opportunity to be with a winner again pretty soon. His trade value is going up by the game and most contracts signed this summer will become eligible to be traded in two weeks. This means we’ll be marching down to the February trade deadline pretty soon and Gordon is playing like the headlining talent.