Next Man Up Rockets defeat the Kings after Harden sidelined with injury.
Brian Barefield | 1/2/2021, 7:43 p.m.
As the Houston Rockets prepared to take on the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, they were hit with a huge blow to their starting lineup. NBA leading scorer, James Harden was ruled out of the game with a sprained right ankle less than 45 minutes before the 4pm tip-off.
In the past, Harden’s absence would have all but solidified a Rockets loss with the lack of offense generated by the rest of the team, but this is a new team and a new mindset. Houston (2-2) had no issues on the offensive side of the ball tonight as starting point guard John Wall, who is playing in his second game after missing two-years away from the court led the Rockets to a 102-94 victory over Sacramento (3-3).
Wall led all scorers with 28 points and dished out six assists in the win. After such a long layoff, Wall is just happy to be playing basketball again, but is also not surprised about his start.
“I just put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point," said Wall who became the first player since Michael Jordan in 2001 to score at least 50 points after missing at least two years according to Elias Sports Bureau. “I couldn’t ask for a better start to be 2-0 in my first two games."
The Rockets used a stingy defensive effort to limit the Kings to 30 points in the second half including 13 points in the fourth quarter. That type of play is exactly what coach Silas has been preaching over the previous three games especially to his team that had been giving up too many easy baskets in transition.
“In order for us to be good we have to be good on defense,” said Silas. “We can’t just outscore people."
Houston got another outstanding performance from center Christian Wood who recorded his fourth consecutive double-double (point & rebounds) with 20 points and 15 rebounds. The only thing to hinder the former UNLV Running Rebel was foul trouble.
Wood picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter and was not inserted back into the game until midway through the fourth quarter. His production along with veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon 21 points, helped the Rockets secure their second win in consecutive games.
“I am going to be ready for whatever is expected,” Gordon said after finding out he would be starting in the place of the injured Harden less than 40 minutes before tipoff. “Whether is coming off the bench or starting, I plan on creating a spark and play well both offensively and defensively. You gotta be ready to step up and always be prepared when someone is out and it takes a group effort to do it.”
The Rockets will be back in action on Monday as they take on in-state rivals Dallas Mavericks at the Toyota Center.