Big Day for SGA: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 153-121 loss to the Thunder

Feb 4, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against Houston Rockets forward Bruno Fernando (20) during the first quarter at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Big Day for SGA: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 153-121 loss to the Thunder

The Houston Rockets fall in a tough one to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 153-121, making this their second loss in a row after winning two straight. They could not recover from a rough first half shooting the basketball, and Oklahoma City seemingly could not miss from the field. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the primary catalyst for the Thunder, with Josh Giddey and Mike Muscala putting up strong nights as well. The Rockets found success with some players off the bench, including two rookies and a second-year player.

SGA took advantage of subpar defense

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was selected to his first all-star game earlier this week, and he showed exactly why tonight. He is averaging a career-high 30.8 points per game, and that number went up after tonight.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 points in the first half without shooting a 3-pointer, as Houston just could not find a way to contain him. He finished with 42 points in the game as the game’s leading scorer. However, it wasn’t just the scoring from SGA, as he contributed in every facet. He put up four rebounds and six assists while also putting up two blocks and three steals defensively.

The Rockets came into the game 25th in the league in opponent points per game and 28th in defensive rating. Most nights, we see the offensive upside of this team with Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Alperen Sengun, etc. However, the defensive side of the ball has been a problem all season, and they need to figure out what the answer is in that department for not just this season but going forward.

Offensive inefficiency is again a killer

This is a young basketball team with plenty of raw offensive talent, and we see it on most nights. With that said, because of that youth, they struggle to hit shots at an efficient clip. The open looks just don’t fall at the rate you want them to right now.

The Rockets did not hit their first 3-pointer until the four-minute mark in the second quarter, but once they hit their first, they hit three in a row showing the potential to get hot. They finished the game shooting 50% from the field and just 10 of 30 on 3-pointers (33%).

Nobody had more offensive upside than Jalen Green in the 2021 NBA Draft, with his ability to score from all over the floor and with flash. There isn’t a shot he can’t make or create. However, he still shoots the ball at a high volume and low field goal percentage. He is shooting 41% from the field on the season, averaging 21.7 points per game, which means he is scoring a bunch but missing a bunch. He finished tonight with 12 points on just 4 of 15 shooting and 2 of 8 on threes.

We did see some strong performances from rookies Tari Eason and TyTy Washington, who put up 18 and 20 points on the night. Josh Christopher also found 20 points in tonight’s outing.

Overall, the shot selection from this team needs to get better, as well as the execution on open looks. They have the talent to score in big numbers, but the shots need to fall.

Back on the L-train

The Rockets have seen some awful losing streaks this season, including a 13-game skid from Dec. 27 to Jan. 23. We recently saw two wins in a row against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons before losing to the Toronto Raptors last night. This loss makes two in a row, and it was an ugly one, so we can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of another long losing streak.

Since Dec. 15, the Rockets are 4-22, so wins are coming few and far between. It also does not look to be getting much easier for Houston as they have two straight games against the Sacramento Kings, followed by the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

Coming into the season, we knew this year was about player development more than the standings, so as long as we see progression from the young talent, it should ease the pain of consecutive losses. However, it would sweeten the process if a couple of wins came out of it.

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