As the Portland Trail Blazers beg the NBA to overturn the result of their last game, they will face a Houston Rockets team tonight in a 5:00 PM, Pacific start.
Has Houston lost four of their last five? Sure, but those losses were against good teams (Boston twice, Philly, and New York) and they’re still darn near .500. Sporting a new coach and a charcuterie board of veterans new to the team, they’re not the same Rockets team that won just 59 games in their last three full seasons combined.
One not-so-fun fact: this will be a meeting of two of the worst-shooting teams in the league, with the Rockets at 45.9% (good for 27th in the NBA) and the Blazers at an obscene 43.4% (dead last in the league). On the bright side, the Blazers should again have almost their entire rotation healthy save for Shaedon Sharpe, and while this is the second night of a back-to-back for Portland, it’s definitely a winnable game.
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Shaedon Sharpe, Robert Williams III, Moses Brown (out).
Rockets injuries: Jalen Green (day-to-day); Victor Oladipo, Tari Eason, Reggie Bullock (out).
Rockets SBN affiliate: The Dream Shake
About the Opponent:
Thompson did not get the start by default. He has steadily moved up in the rotation, with Rockets coach Ime Udoka calling on Thompson’s defense in a wide variety of matchups and getting more hustle-play production away from Thompson’s expected eventual role as a ball-handling playmaker. He had career highs of 15 points and 14 rebounds Sunday, adding five assists. The rebound total was the highest for a Rockets rookie guard since Steve Francis had 17 against the Warriors in the 1999-2000 season. It was Thompson’s second double-double, with the first coming eight days earlier, also against the Celtics. On Saturday against Utah, he had eight points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in 18½ minutes.
James Piercey of The Dream Shake asks whether Houston should rely more on Alperen Sengun:
It feels like because Sengun is in the pick-and-roll so much more often, he’s being used in other ways less often. That isn’t the case. He’s being used more - period. Sengun is also getting 2.0 isolation possessions per game, compared to 0.7 last season. That’s not to say that Ime Udoka is using Sengun perfectly. There’s a bit of a gap between the very top players in low post frequency and the rest of the top ten. Sengun gets 3.8 post touches per game and generates 1.01 points per possession (PPP) out of those sets. By comparison, Bam Adebayo is posting up 5.0 times per game for 0.99 PPP. So Udoka could increase Sengun’s post-up touches. They could come at the expense of some of his pick-and-roll possessions - or not.
Kelly Iko of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote a little while back about the impact that new coach Ime Udoka has had on a young Rockets team:
Udoka has been charged with a team deprived of superstars, a far cry from the Tatums and Browns of the world, so his tactics and game management routinely shift towards the collective, with an emphasis on ball movement, spacing and playing to player’s strengths while hopefully taking advantage of mismatches. It also comes from Udoka’s absence of emotion-based decision-making. He’s drawn up plays for Jalen Green to take the final shots in games and has also benched him for multiple fourth quarters. He’s raved about Şengün and pulled him from games when he’s not performing up to his standards. He’s done the same with Smith. Udoka is connected enough to understand everything that’s going on and loose enough to make the tough calls when they’re needed. It’s attached detachment, and it’s necessary at the highest level in sports. Even if you’re not trying to make a run deep into June now, you will one day.