For the Rockets, play-in or not, this season is a win

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With Houston’s stunning late-season winning streak — and, with it, a glimmer of hope of qualifying for the postseason — hanging in the balance, Jalen Green had the opportunity to put on the cape.

The Rockets had just given up six straight points to go down by two late against a Thunder team vying for the West’s No. 1 seed. But after a missed jumper by Kenrich Williams, Houston had the ball and a chance, and nobody would’ve blamed Green for calling his own number. Not in the throes of a heater that had seen him average more than 28 points per game over his previous 13 outings; not on a night where he’d already scored 32 points and drilled six 3-pointers.

You make shots like Green has over the last month, you get the benefit of the doubt when it’s time to decide who takes the last one. So Green sprinted down the court and made his decision.

This is what growth looks like:

Green drives, and sees three orange slices converge on the calm blue waters of the key. Green also sees Jabari Smith Jr., who hadn’t made a 3 in more than a week, alone in the corner. Green doesn’t think; he reads, and reacts.

“I knew I had him once I got two feet in the paint,” Green later told reporters. “I know their game plan is just to collapse in the paint, bring everybody over, and Jabari’s known for that. I’m going to trust Jabari with that all day long.”

Smith rewards the faith, cashes out, puts Houston up by two with 21.4 seconds to go. It wasn’t the game-winner — Jalen Williams saw fit to give everyone five more minutes of fun — but the Rockets would go on to finish off a 132-126 thriller, extending their improbable run to 10 games.

They don’t get there without that last-minute read — without a natural-born scorer showing his advancing understanding that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

“It was huge,” Rockets head coach Ime Udoka said. “We just showed the team that. Basically, it was our favorite play of the game. We just showed four guys in the paint, and he made the right pass. […] Great pass, great growth. I’m proud of them for that play.”

The thing about progress, though: It…

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Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/for-the-rockets-play-in-or-not-this-season-is-a-win-181520059.html

Author : Yahoo Sports

Publish date : 2024-04-03 18:15:20

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