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Mar 24, 2024 5:29 pm

Rockets carry 8-game win streak into matchup with Blazers

Jalen Green

Houston guard Jalen Green was again the fulcrum of another exceptional offensive performance for the Rockets on Saturday, and his coach says the recent burst is largely about Green’s decision-making.

Green tallied 41 points — one shy of his career high — on 15-of-22 shooting in the Rockets’ 147-119 victory over the Utah Jazz. Houston (35-35) extended its winning streak to eight games and improved to 10-1 this month. Green has been at the heart of the Rockets’ resurgence.

Houston, which will host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, has scored at least 125 points in three consecutive games for the first time since the 1979-80 season. The last five wins have come by double digits.

The Rockets are outscoring opponents by 14.6 points during their win streak. Green, whose confidence in his shot is apparent, has become the engine propelling Houston to new heights.

The third-year player is averaging 27.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in March. He is shooting 51.4 percent overall and 41.7 percent on 3-pointers in the span.

“I think the recognition of what shots to take is really improved,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said of Green, who shot 41.1 percent overall and 30.7 percent from deep in 54 games before the All-Star break. “And also, you’ve just got to have a next-play, next-shot mentality if you miss one or miss a few. Now I think his recognition of what teams are doing (defensively) is different.

“It’s not really about him not shooting well earlier. He was passing up some open ones or realizing what they were doing a little slower, and he’s really on top of that right now. So I love to see it, I’m happy for him and obviously, it boosts our team incredibly.”

Meanwhile, Portland (19-52), in its 114-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, became the second team to start five rookies since NBA box scores started tracking starters in the 1970-71 season.

The Trail Blazers have lost six straight games and 10 of their past 12.

With Deandre Ayton (elbow), Jerami Grant (hamstring), Anfernee Simons (knee) and Matisse Thybulle (ankle) unavailable, the Trail Blazers started Toumani Camara, Kris Murray, Duop Reath and Rayan Rupert alongside Scoot Henderson, the third overall pick in the 2023 draft.

Despite their inexperience, the Trail Blazers were competitive throughout. Portland coach Chauncey Billups simplified the offense against the Nuggets, allowing his team to work out of only two sets to foster a focus on playing the game instead of overthinking things.

That approach paid dividends. And while the Trail Blazers were guilty of several critical turnovers late, the rookie experiment gave the team something to build on.

“More opportunity,” Billups said. “You look at coming down the stretch the turnovers that we had … in a normal situation they wouldn’t be in that position. So they get an opportunity more than anything with the vets being out.

“But this is also because that’s how you learn. I’m sure when given that opportunity again, they’ll be thinking about that, and they’ll try to be better down the stretch.”

–Field Level Media

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