Ding, dong, the losing streak is dead. The Rockets managed to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night killing their 13-game losing streak. Make no mistake, this team is not good. They have the worst record in the entire league. But, at least for the last couple weeks, some of it was not helped by injuries.
Still, at this point, any win is a good one for this young, terribly inexperienced squad. Here's what we saw over the last week.
Green goes off.
Jalen Green became the second under-20 player to reach 40 points in a three-game span dropping 41 against Atlanta and 42 in the win over Minnesota. Green has taken some criticism from fans in recent weeks for his lack of production, but it's easy to forget he is still just 20 years old trying to lead a team. While there are certainly plenty of characteristics of his game worthy of improvement, he is clearly a young star scorer in the making.
What was more impressive against the Timberwolves was his ability to take over down the stretch and play both ends of the floor. He said after the game one of his goals is to be the best player in the game. He's a long way from that, but the flashes recently should at least alleviate some of fans' fears for the time being.
Jae'Sean Tate back.
Tate had missed much of the season with an injury, but his presence on the floor has clearly made a difference. He is tenacious defensively as always, has a good shot around the basket, and, more importantly, can be trusted to handle the ball, even get the offensive sets started. With the absence of Kevin Porter, Jr. and the pervasive turnover problems that have plagued this team, having at least a somewhat steady hand is a blessing.
He is clearly still working his way into shape, but having him in the lineup feels like it has a calming effect, something this team sorely needs.
Injuries magnify struggles.
As mentioned, Porter remains out with a foot injury that has kept him out the better part of a week. He is still having issues with pain and will be reevaluated in about a week. Additionally, Jabari Smith, Jr. has missed several games with an ankle sprain, though it appears he will return to the lineup Wednesday. This team is not good enough to sustain injuries to their best players. Getting Smith back will be helpful. Being generally healthy might not make them a good team, but it won't make them worse.
Point guard still a question mark.
In Porter's absence, the Rockets have taken a point-by-committee approach. Eric Gordon handles some of the duties and Tate brings the ball up, but it's pretty obvious the Rockets simply don't trust any of their young backup guards to handle the duties. Daishen Nix got the first chance before a series of "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision" boxscore line items. Josh Christopher was next, but was not remotely ready for the job. Finally, TyTy Washington has been settling into the backup role, but only playing roughly a dozen minutes a night, so they are easing him in slowly.
There just aren't many stable ball handlers on the team who they trust to run the show and that continues to be a problem, particularly with KPJ on the shelf for who knows how much longer.
Jeff Balke covers the Astros and Rockets weekly for the Houston Press and co-hosts the Bleav in Astros podcast with former third baseman and current Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum. Follow him on Twitter.