Rockets Keep Rolling
Strong, balanced effort leads Houston to 85-71 summer league win over Jazz
HOUSTON - Summer league isn’t typically the place to see stout defense on display. It is, at its core, a showcase for rookies and other young players attempting to impress their would-be employers, and it’s no newsflash to suggest such NBA neophytes are frequently more focused with scoring than on the finer points of professional caliber D.
Then again, the Rockets’ starting five in Orlando isn’t exactly your typical summer league starting unit, either. Houston has NBA experience at every position and it certainly showed once again Tuesday afternoon during the club’s dominating 85-71 victory over the Utah Jazz. The Rockets wasted little time methodically going about the business of putting Utah away, utilizing a strong, balanced effort from just about every player on their roster.
But whereas much of the focus from Sunday’s triumph over Philadelphia rightfully fell upon the stat-stuffing exploits of Terrence Jones, Tuesday’s tilt was all about the suffocating defense Houston used to strangle the Jazz into submission. The Rockets forced Utah into 18 turnovers while limiting the Jazz to a meager 38 percent shooting from the field. So one a day when Houston didn’t fare much better from the field (the Rockets connected on just 40 percent of their field goal attempts), the team was still able to rack up a 20-point lead before cruising home to the finish.
As he did throughout his rookie season with the Rockets, Patrick Beverley sparked the defensive effort with his unique ability to serve as a pesky, disruptive force at the point of attack. Teammates such as Greg Smith and Terrence Jones, meanwhile, moved in concert with their trigger man, effectively sealing off the paint and protecting the rim to prevent Utah from generating much in the way of quality looks. The end result was another easy win for Houston which is now 31-6 in summer league action since 2005.
“I feel like right now me, Patrick and Terrence are the leaders,” said Smith, who finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. “We’ve been around. We know what the coaches want us to do. So we’re just trying to make sure guys go hard, are paying attention, learn the plays and what we’re trying to do on the defensive end. If I go as hard as I can, that’s going to set the tone for the other guys.
“I feel a lot different now. I’ve been there. I’ve played with James Harden and with Big O (Omer Asik), so I’ve got a lot more experience playing in the NBA. Now I come into summer league with a much better mindset of what it takes to succeed in the NBA and now I need to help these younger guys get the same mindset I’ve got.”