Houston Rockets Struggles vs. Celtics Illustrated Loss Arc Of Post-Entry Passing
HOUSTON – Alperen Sengun walked into TD Garden on Tuesday night, one day removed from the biggest game of his career. He recorded 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, six assists and a block to lead the Houston Rockets to a 133-118 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
But 24 hours later, Sengun had his worst performance yet. He was held scoreless for the third time in his career and played 22 minutes as the Rockets suffered a 126-102 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Sengun spent most of the game being followed by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, whose body and physicality made the second-year big man non-existent in Boston.
“It really affected us,” coach Stephen Silas said. “When they had turned on Smart [Alperen]we were trying to get the ball in [the post], but Marcus is a strong and fast defender. He was spinning to get the ball, which made our posts not very good.
“It made it difficult to play [Alperen] when they had the youngest son on them. It’s not just the boy’s height. But also their strength”.
The Rockets’ inability to get the ball to Sengun illustrated the missed passing arc after the inbounds. Silas said that when he first came into the league (2000), post-entry drills were one of the main drills teams practiced.
Players practiced faking the ball down while shooting it up the post and vice versa. Silas believes the lack of post players over the previous eight seasons is the reason for the lost technique.
Beginning in 2014, all but three teams averaged more than ten touchdowns a night. The Memphis Grizzlies led the NBA with an average of 28.7 rebounds, led by their All-Star corps of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
But throughout the 2022-2023 season, only the Denver Nuggets (13.3) and Milwaukee Bucks (10.3) have accomplished this feat. Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead each franchise, respectively.
The Rockets are averaging 5.0 post-up touchdowns in their first 34 games. The 2015-16 season marked the last time the Rockets averaged 10 or more post touches, coinciding with Dwight Howard’s final year in Houston.
“There was a big emphasis on playing through the post to get the ball to the big guys,” KJ Martin said. “Back in the day, it was a big-heavy league. Now, with fours and fives, most of the game is out on the perimeter.
“They [the Celtics] had Marcus Smart on him [Sengun]. And then they moved on to Jayson Tatum. It was a little difficult, but we were able to find it under the bin a few times.
Smith finished the night with three steals. He intercepted a pass after Jalen Green’s tackle on Sengun at 6:29 of the first quarter.
Martin recorded a fumbled pass after going in with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown, who finished the game with 39 points, was credited with the steal. Martin’s target was Sengun.
You can follow Coty M. Davis on Twitter at @CotyDavis_24
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