Back-to-back: Three takeaways from Wednesday’s 112-106 win over the Thunder

Feb 1, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward KJ Martin (6) reacts after scoring a basket during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Back-to-back: Three takeaways from Wednesday’s 112-106 win over the Thunder

The Rockets have won back-to-back games for the first time since December 13 with Wednesday’s 112-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and they won both games with Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green out due to injuries. The Rockets grabbed a season-high 24 offensive rebounds, with four coming on one sequence from Tari Eason, leading to 25 second chance points, and they held the Thunder to 37 percent shooting. Eric Gordon’s 25 points led all scorers, while Eason added 20 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.

A fast start and a strong finish

You know you’ve gotten off to a good start when the opposing team calls two timeouts before nine minutes have elapsed off the clock, and that’s exactly what the Rockets forced the Thunder to do on Wednesday. The Rockets came out with more energy than the Thunder and jumped out to a 28-17 lead. Not only did they get any shot they wanted, they shot the ball well, and if they did miss they would track down the offensive rebound.

The Rockets led 34-25 after a quarter, shooting 54 percent from the field. They grabbed the offensive rebound on 5 of their 11 missed shots, leading to six points, and it took more than nine minutes before they committed their first turnover.

Houston led by nine at halftime, but Oklahoma City stormed back and controlled the third quarter, taking a lead into the fourth, but the Rockets used a 9-0 run to take the lead back and they never gave it up. The Rockets outscored Oklahoma City 28-20 in the game’s final quarter, holding the Thunder to 28 percent while forcing 4 turnovers.

The old guy’s still got it

A game after matching his season-high with 24 points in Detroit, Eric Gordon eclipsed it against the Thunder, putting up 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He got the Rockets going with a 7-point first quarter, and finished the first half with 15. The only negative about his game were the three straight missed free throws in the fourth quarter.

Gordon has now scored 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time since December 8, 2021, and with the trade deadline approaching next Thursday Gordon appears to be healthy and playing at a high level if there are any contenders looking for a guard with playoff experience.

“He was the one settling the guys down and that’s important,” Rockets head coach Silas said. “He obviously played very well and scored and defended (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) at times during the game, but that veteran presence where he can get everybody and calm them down when the moments aren’t so great, or if we’re getting on the referees, or we’re distracted for one reason or another. His steady presence was important tonight.”

Limiting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The Thunder guard will be named to his first All-Star team when reserves are announced on Thursday, and no one in the league is more deserving. Gilgeous-Alexander entered as the NBA’s fifth leading scorer, averaging 30.9 points per game, but the Rockets did a pretty good job on him.

“With a great scorer like him all you want him to do is a shoot a bad percentage shot,” Gordon said. “Any great scorer is gonna always score, but it’s all about trying to be physical with him. I wasn’t the only guy guarding him. (Daishen) Nix did well on him, (Jae’Sean) Tate did well on him, and the game that he had, that’s just what you wanted and it gave us another chance to win.”

Gilgeous-Alexander was held to 24 points on 7-of-23 shooting against the Rockets. He scored 13 in the first half and was stuck on that number until a seven point surge to end the third, but the Rockets never allowed him to get going in the fourth, holding him to 4 points on 1-of-6 shooting.

“It was a team effort,” Silas said. “It was Eric (Gordon). It was Daishen, at times. It was Tate, especially Tate. “For him to have seven free throws in the first half and only end up with 10, which is his average, shows that we were playing some pretty good defense, and our help defense was good too.”

Next up

The Rockets will host the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

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