The Houston Rockets received a measure of good news this week with the scheduled return of rookie guard Jalen Green, who is due to rejoin the lineup on Thursday against the Indiana Pacers following a 14-game absence.
The Rockets went 8-6 without Green, the second overall pick in the draft who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury. Green will return in Indianapolis possessing season averages of 14 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 18 games.
While Green should provide the Rockets some sorely needed backcourt depth — guard Kevin Porter Jr. remains sidelined with a thigh contusion — he likely won’t affect the bottom line on defense.
Houston has dropped six of eight games following a surprising seven-game winning streak, and in back-to-back setbacks against the Chicago Bulls on Monday and Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, the Rockets allowed 33-of-81 3-point shooting, a robust 40.7 percent from behind the arc.
Even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks scored with ease against the Rockets’ prone defense behind Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday en route to a 126-106 home win over Houston on Wednesday.
“We just need our guys to be better really, defensively,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “It wasn’t scheme. They weren’t running a whole bunch of stuff. They were just kind of going at us and we — I wouldn’t say taking it — weren’t holding our ground. And that leads to finishes for (Middleton and Holiday) or open threes for their teammates.”
The Pacers weren’t any better on defense against the Heat on Tuesday, allowing 22 3-pointers in their 125-96 loss at Miami. Indiana had four days off before that contest, but instead of looking refreshed, the Pacers came out flat and struggled to muster a threat on either end of the court.
“In some cases, you want to play more frequently to stay in rhythm,” Pacers guard Caris LeVert said. “That’s not any excuse or reason why we came out the way we did.”
Compounding matters for the Pacers was the loss of guard Malcolm Brogdon to a troublesome Achilles. After practicing without incident in the two days before the game and completing the walkthrough Tuesday, Brogdon logged only eight minutes before departing against the Heat.
Considering the nature of Brogdon’s injury, there is no set timetable for his return. That reality puts the already scuffling Pacers in even more of a pinch beyond what their inconsistent play has yielded thus far this season.
“There’s no excuses,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “Malcolm going out is a tough blow for us, but everybody is missing players right now. We’ve got to focus on the guys that we have available and hopefully we can get him back quickly.
“We’re just going to have to scramble in his absence. Brad (Wanamaker) did a great job in the Detroit game. Caris is going to have to play some point. From there we’ll have to get creative if something happens with fouls or one of those guys, but I don’t want to get into that discussion.”
–Field Level Media