Houston Rockets reserve Lou Williams re-discovers scoring touch

Former sixth man of the year gets back into rhythm at expense of Los Angeles Lakers

Fran Blinebury

HOUSTON — Roosters yell at the sunrise, shooters shoot.

Lou Williams doesn’t need to crow about what he can do with the ball in his hands. You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to find someone that makes shooting look as easy as falling out of bed and it was only a matter of time until it came around again.

It had been only three weeks since Williams played his first game for the Rockets and dropped in a seamless 27 points. But it had been two weeks since he’d been able to find that touch again.

In a six-game stretch, Williams struggled to make buckets, not once shooting 50 percent from the field, never dropping in more than a pair of 3-pointers in a single game.

But Williams made it all look so effortless against his former team on Wednesday night, hitting his first seven shots of the game and finishing with 30 points while knocking down seven triples in a 139-100 win over the Lakers.

“It was good to see the ball go in the hole,” Williams said. “Just to have an opportunity to play well and get a big win at home.

“It’s been a while. I’ve had some ups and downs. It’s been a while since I’ve shot the ball that well…I felt confident on the shot. Got off to a good start and was able to carry it over.”

Williams also dealt seven assists, making him only the third player (Sleepy Floyd, Jamal Crawford) in the last 33 years to come off the bench for two games of 30+ points and 7+ assists in a single season.

“I don’t know if you could call it struggling,” said point guard James Harden. “He’s just gotta get used to what we’re doing. The first game he came out hot, but then he’s got to find his way. We’ve got so many good players and good scorers, that he’s going to have to figure it out. He’s just being patient.”

Patience is something you’ve got to have when you’re like Williams and have been on only three winning teams in the first 11 seasons of your NBA career. After winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award in Toronto in 2015, he’d spent the past 1 1/2 years suffering with the Lakers through their youth movement. The so-called rebuilding project had a record of 37-112 during his time in L.A.

“It’s what you get paid to do,” Williams said. “Obviously it’s a tricky situation. You’re going out there and competing as hard as you can. That can take a lot out of you sometimes. But you’ve got to go out there and be a pro and just compete at the highest level that you can every night and live with the results.”

He said he took no special pleasure in torturing his ex-teammates.

“No,” Williams said. “I was just with them guys three weeks ago. I’ve been through some of the same struggles that they’ve gone through and are still going through. So I just wanted to go out and compete and not kind of rub it in their face. I’ve developed some relationships with those guys.

“When you’re losing that tends to kind of build the character of everybody together. Like I said, I’ve tried to build some relationships with those guys over there. Some of those young guys are really genuine guys that are going out there competing as hard as they can, just like getting the job done. I know and it’s tough.”

The Rockets are now 7-3 since getting Williams in the February deal with the Lakers and have had patience of their own in letting him find a rhythm and a comfort zone in their offense. Adding him to a roster that already includes long range shooters Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson and that only makes the force of nature that is Harden even harder to guard by adding another option.

“I think Lou helps out with spacing,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “He gets shots up. He doesn’t turn the ball over a whole lot. You have another playmaker on the floor and that makes it better. I think guys are getting more comfortable in what they do. Just do what you do and don’t try anything crazy.

“I thought a couple games he’s been what, 3-for-10? I think it’s a stat that’s not quite accurate, because I know of two or three shots that he had that he was fouled and they didn’t call it. So sometimes it’s bad luck. I don’t worry about Lou. He’s gonna score. He’s gonna play well. The only thing I worry about is I’ve get got get him enough time on the floor…I’ve got to watch that and make sure he’s comfortable.

“He’s easy to play with. He makes simple plays. He scores the ball real well. He’s another playmaker that makes plays and defensively he competes. Sometimes he does get beat up a little bit. Because he’s not real strong. That’s just the way he’s made up. But to play with him is really simple.”

It was Williams’ first 30-point output since Jan. 25 at Portland, but his new teammates figure it’s just the start of what’s to come down the stretch and the playoffs.

“He had a couple of games that he didn’t feel comfortable in, but for the most part he’s been great,” said Rockets forward Trevor Ariza. “He’s been very positive and, of course, his game’s going to come around. That’s what he does. He scores the basketball. He wasn’t worried about it too much. We weren’t worried about it too much.”

Like the rooster, they knew he’d eventually crow.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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