Houston Rockets beat San Antonio Spurs to kick off preseason

No one was celebrating, and no one was celebrating after a preseason win over some rebuilding Spurs. But the Rockets were happy with their first rehearsal for good reason.

Almost everything they did, they were better than most of last season on their way to a 134-96 victory over the Spurs at the Toyota Center on Sunday night. They’re shooting 54.6 percent from the field, and the ball movement is generally excellent. They held the Spurs to 35.5 percent shooting with aggressive defense. With those numbers, they shot over 50 percent from the field while opponents shot under 40 percent, as they did in the same game, only twice all season.

“Any game you play, you want to win, we have competitive players,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “It definitely feels good to get on and off the winning note, but we still have a lot to clean up. There’s a lot to improve.”


Tarry Eason and Jabari Smith Jr. walked to the post-race podium from their side-by-side folding chairs in the lockers they still shared.

Both scored 21 points to lead the Rockets. Both look very much as advertised, with Smith being an excellent shooter and defender and Eisen a relentless rim attacker. But they’re still rookies, so they’re sitting in neat folding chairs that look like they’ve been pulled out of a closet and sharing a locker space for a few more weeks before the lineup is adjusted and the locker room is less crowded.

Neither seem to mind.

“It’s easy,” Smith said. “My teammates made it easy for me and found me when I was open. The rest came from knockdown shots, running, trusting the offense and trusting my teammates. Coming into the game, I felt a lot easier than the summer, not much tension.”

The Rockets aren’t worried about anything, according to Summer League stats, but if they’re so inclined, Smith’s shot could be last. He’s a poor shot, 25.6 percent from 3-point range, but shooting is his thing. As with Jaylen Green last season (or Sunday), there is confidence that the shot will come.

For Smith, it didn’t take long. Silas tries to highlight other things Smith does well, starting with his steadfast defense and the manoeuvring room he brings to others. But on offense, nothing stands out like how comfortable and confident Smith’s shooting looks.

Smith made 8 of 15 shots, including 5 of 8 three-pointers, and grabbed 8 rebounds in 24 minutes.

“Defensively, he’s in the right spot,” Silas said. “He’s long. He’s athletic. He’s in the gap. He’s closing. Then on offense, he’s shooting.”

Ethan came off the bench and shot 9-for-13, usually by driving to the rim and finishing in the paint. Six of his 10 rebounds came from offensive rebounds.

“We didn’t play a game for Tarry tonight, but his pool ball and getting to the rim are good,” Silas said.

“My mindset will never change,” Eason said. “The way I play the game has never changed. What I bring to the floor hasn’t changed. I’ll always be in the right spot, catch it on defense and be one of the hardest players on the court. I think This can translate on any level, and I will continue to do so.”

spin clue

The preseason opener rotation might give us some idea of ​​what Silas has in mind. With only four preseason games, he wants to combine as many combinations as possible while the game counts.

Some of Sunday’s rotation decisions could be influenced by Jae’Sean Tate, who is sidelined with a sore right ankle. But while Bruno Fernando, Dyson Knicks, and KJ Martin were the first ones to come off the bench, none of them were at the power forward position Tate played most often.

The Knicks, Fernando and Martin are considered to be the standouts in training camp, so the early minutes could be a nod to the stellar performances. But the Knicks seem likely to be the bench, especially with rookie TyTy Washington Jr. There was no playing time in the first half, although he had some good moments in the game. Martin has been playing small forward in training camp. Fernando did a great job in training.

Fernando showed why the Rockets were so encouraged by his performance — and rewarded him with a four-year, $10.9 million contract. He’s energetic on the boards, energized as a rim protector, and has a good vertical spacing threat in the pick-and-roll.

When Alperen Sengun left the court early in the second half after hitting his knee in his thigh (he returned midway through the third quarter), Fernando was once again the first center on the bench, ahead of Usman Garruba or more Small-ball lineup versus veteran Boban Marjanovic’s traditional lineup. The Rockets even ran a pick-and-roll for Kevin Porter Jr. Set Fernando Slam.

The Rockets often stagger Porter and Green. They let Porter play off the ball in the Knicks position.

Instead of using the preseason to experiment, the Rockets have stepped up practice sessions and fostered chemistry. But Silas said Sunday’s rotation should not be seen as a possible combination for October. 19 in Atlanta.

“Tonight isn’t necessarily an indicator in terms of lineups and rotations,” Silas said. “I’m trying to see a bunch of different lineups, different combinations.”

Defense without rest

With the Spurs playing without Keldon Johnson and Josh Primo, it may be difficult to clearly assess the Rockets’ defense, but it’s safe to say it’s much better.

“I think we’re (playing) a better defense now,” Sengen said. “I think we do better in practice because everything starts with practice.”

The Rockets had to consider improving their defense as a top priority, and for much of the night they were more dynamic and disruptive throughout the possession. There was a time when the Spurs would keep attacking until the Rockets collapsed, even if they were still exploring the last few seconds of shot time. Those Spurs didn’t have that kind of execution, but the Rockets’ defensive commitment continued into the possession and barely dipped even as the lead stretched to 34.

“Obviously, we’ve been focused on defense,” Silas said. “Our help was great. We forced them to make 3s, higher than drive 3s, and our multiple efforts were great on the defensive end. Yeah, defensive effort, if we can do that, if we To be able to finish the game with rebounds, then we can go out and run, which is what we do best.

“I’m very encouraged by the intensity we have on the defensive end, and then it’s important for us to turn defense into offense.”

The Rockets had a 28-point lead on the Spurs’ possession five minutes into the fourth quarter, and every pass was questioned. Garruba blocked a shot and then knocked it out before time was up, and the Spurs were still trying to get the ball.

“Multi-effort defense, we did a great job with initial coverage, whether it was pick-and-roll, dribble passing or singles coverage, then when the ball was sprayed, scrambling and helping your teammates and keeping the ball out of the paint And let them pass extra,” Silas said. “It would be great if we could do that. To get the team to shoot late in the attacking minutes, it meant we were putting in the effort throughout the attacking minutes.

“If we had possession like we did tonight, they had two shots and one breached the shot clock (on the attacking clock), which is a good indicator of how hard we are on the defensive end.”

Misfire but play

Green made 3 of 12 shots and missed all four three-pointers. Porter went 3-for-9 from the field and 1-for-3 from the field. When they were on the floor, however, the Rockets dominated. They led the Spurs by 24 in Green’s 23 minutes and 23 in Porter’s 20 minutes.

That’s for a number of reasons, including better shots from those around them, including 8-for-13 3-pointers from Eric Gordon and Smith. But the Rockets’ guard was also an effective playmaker, with Porter having only two turnovers and Green having no turnovers while effectively launching the offense.

Porter, in particular, seems to run the pick-and-roll more easily, manipulating defenses to create open spaces. He had six of the Rockets’ 32 assists, and he rarely seemed to force it out in traffic.

The Rockets will love and expect better shots from both sides. But it’s encouraging when they don’t see an offensive click.

“Scott (Porter) played a really good game, but he didn’t score,” Silas said. “He doesn’t shoot well. If he and Jaylen shoot at night, which they do, we can still play effective basketball, which is a good thing for the Rockets.”

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