Jalen Green fuels Rockets as Houston ends 13-game losing streak

Houston's leading man topped all scorers with 42 points in a win over Minnesota.

Photo of Michael Shapiro
Houston Rockets' Jalen Green (4) celebrates after making a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Houston. The Rockets won 119-114. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets' Jalen Green (4) celebrates after making a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Houston. The Rockets won 119-114. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Saturday night marked a low point in Jalen Green's young career as he turned in a 10-point, 3-for-13 clunker against the Timberwolves in Minnesota. 

That ugly performance continued a difficult shooting stretch for the second-year guard, his effort coinciding with an NBA-worst 13th consecutive loss for the Houston Rockets. Perhaps more concerning than Green's misses was his lack of energy and engagement, with numerous empty offensive possessions followed by Green walking up the floor as Minnesota sprinted to baskets in transition.

Monday night featured a notable turnaround for Houston's leading man. 

Green led all scorers with a career-high 42 points in Monday's 119-114 victory over Minnesota. He tallied 13 first-quarter points and banged home five triples across the evening, flashing the scoring talent that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft. Green's production in his second NBA season has been uneven thus far. He kicked off Monday night with a focus not always present through a difficult first half of the season.

"I already had a chip in my shoulder entering this game," Green said postgame. "My guys relied on me, coaches relied on me, it feels good. We needed that, we were desperate."

The season-long metrics on Green don't paint the rosiest picture of what Houston hopes is a future All-NBA talent. Green's 47.9 percent effective field goal percentage ranks No. 70 among the 75 players who've attempt at least 500 shots this season, and he entered Monday night with an ugly 3.6 assists to three turnovers per game. But perhaps Green is being graded on a difficult curve by those skeptical of his future as a franchise anchor. Green has two 40-plus point efforts in his last three games. He's up to 37 percent from three since Christmas Day. He is one of six players in NBA history with three 40-point games before turning 21, and even amid shaky shooting nights, he remains among the game's most athletic guards.

Green's talent is undeniable. His 11 points in the final 3:33 of the game capped the best night of his young career.

"[Green] was ready for tonight" Rockets coach Stephen Silas said postgame. "It was time for us to really buckle down and focus for a full 48 minutes, and he was the leader of that tonight."

Green wasn't the only youngster fueling Houston's win. Center Alperen Şengün had little trouble against former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert en route to a 21-point, 7-assist effort, and rookie forward Tari Eason shined in his second career start. Eason's work may not have shown box score impact, but he drove the action early, energizing Houston with seven points, four rebounds and a plus-11 in seven first-quarter minutes. On a crew of players largely under age 25, Eason's focus and consistent effort stands out. He acted as the catalyst Monday night for Houston as it built a double-digit first quarter lead. 

"Tari came out with a lot of energy," Green said postgame. "He's a real big energy guy for us, always talking to us, always motivating us. ... We fed off that."

The Rockets still sit in the Western Conference cellar following Monday's win: the team is just 11–36 after ending the extended losing skid. And while the losses will continue to mount through early April, the mid-January win over Minnesota provides some notable breathing room for Silas and Co. The losing streak is over. Green is showing signs of growth. With the pressure of a losing streak now over, perhaps legitimate progress will follow. 

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