Kings For A Day
Rockets ride huge effort from starters, Terrence Jones to 112-102 win over Sacramento
SACRAMENTO, CA - 75 games into the regular season, the Rockets figured it was just about time to unleash their secret weapon. Enter Terrence Jones. Commence double-double production. Sacramento never stood a chance.
Okay, so that’s not really quite how the Rockets planned it of course, though it certainly makes for a good story (not to mention an effective strategy since it lessens the amount of time opponents now have to scout the revamped Rockets). The real truth is that Jones’ 14-point, 12-rebound, more-exclamation-marks-than-a-texting-teen performance was far more the byproduct of a season’s worth of hard work and perseverance than it was devious design. But reality made the end result no less jarring and jaw dropping. Jones was an absolute revelation. And his play proved positively pivotal to the Rockets 112-102 win over the Kings Wednesday night.
“He had a great practice yesterday,” said Houston head coach Kevin McHale when asked what went into the decision to give Jones his first meaningful minutes of the season in the heat of the Rockets’ playoff chase. “I told our staff, ‘We’ve given everybody a shot at that spot, we might as well give Terrence a shot.’ He played really well down in the Valley, I was watching him. As the year’s progressed, Terrence has gotten more comfortable with what we’re trying to do and he’s just gotten better and better so I was real happy for him tonight.”
McHale certainly wasn’t the only one singing the rookie’s praises after the game. His teammates joined in the chorus as well – how could they resist? Eight of Jones’ 12 rebounds came on the offensive end where he terrorized Sacramento with his length, quickness and athleticism. He scored four quick points that helped to settle his butterflies in the early going and then just got stronger and more confident as the game progressed. By the fourth quarter, he had done more than enough to earn the right to close out the game with Houston’s other starters.
And in crunch time, he just kept on contributing. One moment he was beating everyone off the floor and into the air while corralling his own miss and putting it in the bucket all in one motion. The next he was powerfully snatching a defensive rebound with one hand amid a cluster of bodies. And perhaps most impressive of all, when the ball found him alone in the corner with the shot clock winding down, Jones showed true poise, wisely deciding against forcing up a difficult shot and instead passing the ball to Jeremy Lin who promptly drained a clutch, backbreaking three.
“He put it down a couple times and I was like, ‘You better pass the ball to me, rookie,’” said a laughing J-Lin while reliving that particular sequence before turning serious and sincere. “Man, what can you say? You’re a rookie, you go down to the D-League 10 times, you don’t play at all and then you come off the bench with a double-double in a huge road game. That has to feel great. I couldn’t be happier for stories and people like that because you spend months and months and months waiting for your turn and he really capitalized tonight.”
Of course Lin of all people would appreciate Jones’ tale of perseverance and staying strong and ready to take advantage of opportunity when it finally arrives. But take a look at the Rockets’ roster and you’ll see nothing but similar tales and stories. There’s second round pick Chandler Parsons scoring 29 points on 12-18 shooting while still dealing with the aftereffects of food poisoning. There’s another second rounder, Omer Asik, putting up 11 points in the third quarter as part of his latest double-double performance. There’s James Harden flirting with a triple-double after three years spent living in the shadows in Oklahoma City. And yes, there’s undrafted Jeremy Lin, hitting huge shots down the stretch again while putting the finishing touches on an evening that saw him tally 15 points and 10 assists while the entire team moved the ball with purpose, precision and pace.
“I thought today was one of our most unselfish games that we’ve had,” he said. “Chandler and James did a great job coming back and inserting themselves back into the lineup and then just letting shots find players. We had a lot of extra passes tonight.
“For us, we just need to continue to put all the extra stuff to the side, whether it’s how many points we score, how many rebounds or assists an individual gets, we’ve just got to let the numbers take care of themselves and play for each other. When we do that we can be really, really good.”
And apparently when they unwrap and unveil secret weapons like Terrence Jones – in the final few weeks of the season, no less – they can be even better. To be sure, his turn on the rookie roller coaster will come. It always does. There will be the occasional duds mixed in with those double-doubles. But it sure was something to see Jones deliver on the promise he showed on draft day last June. And in so doing, he became just the latest example of how Houston’s D-League strategy, when paired with a player’s hard work and perseverance, really can work wonders.
“I just worked hard I feel,” said Jones. “Just going from the D-League back to the NBA, I just feel it helped me mature and try to be ready for my turn whenever I got it and I just tried to take advantage when I could.
“I was excited, nervous, I mean everything at the same time. I just wanted to help the team get a win … Just to be here and everybody having confidence in me like they did was a great thing to have.”
Terrence Jones played really well. He had a great practice yesterday and he really played well down in the Valley. We’ve been trying to give everybody a look at that spot and I thought it was time to give Terrence a chance. He played really well. I’m happy for him. Now we have to go up to Portland and try to beat a good team there.
He had a great practice yesterday. I told our staff, ‘We’ve given everybody a shot at that spot, we might as well give Terrence a shot.’ He played really well down in the Valley, I was watching him. As the year’s progressed, Terrence has gotten more comfortable with what we’re trying to do and he’s just gotten better and better so I was real happy for him tonight.
I suppose he’s been chomping at the big to play so he got out there tonight and had a lot of energy.
(ball movement) we had good ball movement today and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to keep moving the ball and keep on just playing our style, hopefully getting enough stops along the way so that we can get wins.
I thought today was one of our most unselfish games that we’ve had. Chandler and James did a great job coming back and inserting themselves back into the lineup and then just letting shots find players. We had a lot of extra passes tonight.
(on Terrence Jones): Man, what can you say? You’re a rookie, you go down to the D-League 10 times, you don’t play at all and then you come off the bench with a double-double in a huge road game. That has to feel great. I couldn’t be happier for stories and people like that because you spend months and months and months waiting for your turn and he really capitalized tonight.
(did you think the ball was coming back your way on that late 3?) He put it down a couple times and I was like, ‘You better pass the ball to me, rookie.’ (laughs)
For us, we just need to continue to put all the extra stuff to the side, whether it’s how many points we score, how many rebounds or assists and individual gets, we’ve just got to let the numbers take care of themselves and play for each other. When we do that we can be really, really good.
(on Jones’ performance): TJ was great. He had a great practice before this and he’s earned it. It wasn’t given to him. He had a rough way here but he earned it and there’s no way he doesn’t play the next game.
I just worked hard I feel. Just going from the D-League back to the NBA, I just feel it helped me mature and try to be ready for my turn whenever I got it and I just tried to take advantage when I could.
I was excited, nervous, I mean everything at the same time. I just wanted to help the team get a win.
(on getting two easy buckets early to calm his nerves): Yeah, I mean guys on this team find you when you’re open so I just tried to move and make sure I’m there for them if they’re driving and my guy helps and it happened a lot tonight.
(did you ever think about shooting on late possession where you passed to Lin for open 3?) No, I saw (Isaiah Thomas) elbow me a long time ago I just wanted to make sure Jeremy had enough time to get a regular shot off. I wasn’t shooting that (laughs).
(more comfortable playing with all those Kentucky players on the floor?) It made me feel a lot more comfortable being able to play against those guys in the offseason so many times. Just to be here and everybody having confidence in me like they did was a great thing to have.
Kings Head Coach Keith Smart
“That was a really disappointing loss for our basketball team. I understand that Houston came out with a sense of urgency, but I thought that we still had an opportunity to play great. We got off to an unfinished start. We went 19-for-47 as far as finishing plays in the paint. If you get to the paint, you have to finish those plays. This was a very, very bad loss for us and our fans. We played but we didn’t create the opportunity to win on the floor. They made the plays that won the basketball game and we didn’t. Our fans did a good job of encouraging this basketball game but we weren’t able to take it tonight.”
On Chandler Parsons:
“Chandler is a guy that moves very well around the ball, he’s never in the same spot. He cuts hard to the basket and plays hard. He can shoot the three but he’s a hard-driving guy and goes over the top to finish the plays. He’s a very-high energy, young player. He understands when to shoot a three or when to drive. He’s very, very good for a young player.”
On Omer Asik:
“He was working hard and running the floor. There was so much penetration into the paint that you end up helping and sometimes, when there’s a guy on a team that can shoot the three, you’re a little bit off for where you need to be because you’re in two worlds. You’re trying to help on penetration but you know that the three-point shots can really hurt you. He was a guy who was sitting in places where opportunities came based on drop-off places off of penetration by Jeremy Lin. James Harden would also make garbage plays off the basket and then he would run the floor. He probably had about 6 or 7 points for sure off of transitions and picking up some loose garbage plays. Asik doesn’t need the basketball to be effective, he just simply runs the floor, spaces, and takes opportunities when they come. Players can play that way without having the ball and they still have successful games.”
On the game:
“We had a few times where we got it close – especially that last time we got it down to five – and then Jeremy Lin hits the big three, then they get a three-point play the next play. So it’s one of those games where every time we fought back or every time we made a run, they capitalized on something too.”
“By the fourth quarter we were just trying to be very aggressive, just trying to make plays. We knew we were down and time was ticking so that’s probably half the reason why we had those turnovers in the fourth – we were just trying to basically get back in the game.”
On the Rockets jumping on them really quick:
“That’s what they do – I think they are second in the league in scoring. But those three or four days we had off without playing a game, it’s kind of hard to come back and really be in a real good game rhythm. We can’t make any excuses; like you said, we started out slow and it kind of haunted us the whole night.”
On his double-double and what was working for him:
“Just picking and choosing my spots, being aggressive on the boards and keeping us in the game.”
On getting off to a slow start:
“They just made some shots. I don’t think it was us not playing aggressive defense or anything like that. But for the most part we came back into the game and it was going back and forth – they had a lead, then we took a lead, then we dropped down their lead a little bit. So we didn’t play how we wanted to play but we still controlled the game somewhat.”
On playing against Francisco Garcia for the first time:
“It was cool. I got to speak with him; I always keep in touch with him. It’s unfortunate for him to be in another jersey but I’m happy for him and happy he’s in a good situation. I’ll always wish him the best.”