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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets' defense keys 102-94 win over Kings

UPDATED: January 2, 2021 -- 10:40 p.m. CT

POSTED: January 2, 2021 -- 10:30 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings 102-94 Saturday afternoon / evening and improved to 2-2 this season. Houston held Sacramento to 94 points after opponents averaged 123.7 points per game the first three games of the season.

The Rockets got balanced production from John Wall, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood.

Wall scored 28 points, dished out 6 assists, picked up 4 rebounds, picked up 3 steals, and blocked 2 shots. The last Rocket not named James Harden to post those numbers in a single game was Tracy McGrady on February 13, 2007.

Gordon added 21 points, 4 dimes, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 blocked shot. Gordon started in place of James Harden who missed the game due to a sprained right ankle.

C-Wood scored 20 points, pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds, and blocked 4 shots.

The offensive numbers are nice. The Rockets defeated the Kings with defense.

At halftime, the game was tied at 64. The Kings (3-3) shot 51.7% (24 for 47) from the floor in the opening half. The Kings shot 25.6% (11 for 43) from the floor in the second half.

When asked what adjustment was made at halftime, Rockets Head Coach Stephen Silas said after the game, "The adjustment that we made was we played harder. We put more attention to the defensive end. We weren't so reliant on us being a good defensive team. We really buckled down and played good defense."

Houston (2-2) scored 38 points in the second half on 14 for 37 field goals (37.8 fg%).

"In order for us to be good, we have to be good on defense," Coach Silas added. "We can't just outscore people. You see the second half - we only scored 38 points; but, we held them to 30. And, that's the sign of a team that is committed on the defensive end.

"I was proud of the second half. I was proud of the fighting and the coming together on the defensive end. But, really, it was just a matter of them trying harder."


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"We went to a smaller group in the third quarter and started switching," Coach Silas commented. "That got us going. That group with (David) Nwaba, (Sterling) Brown, and (Jae'Sean) Tate were really doing a good job on the defensive end as far as bringing their energy and purpose to the defensive end."

"I have a great group of guys that likes to defend and like to take that challenge on everyday," John Wall remarked. "And, I'm glad to be around some people like that because that's something that I like to do."

The Kings made 6 of 22 field goal attempts in the third quarter. Houston led 83-81 to start the fourth quarter before going on a 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the final period. Nwaba made a three-pointer to open the fourth then Eric Gordon hit a three-pointer before adding 3 foul shots after getting fouled attempting another three-point shot.

The Rockets went scoreless the next 3 plus minutes; however, Houston's defense held the Kings to just 2 points during that span which allowed Houston to lead 92-83 before Gordon scored a layup to end the Rocket's scoring drought. John Wall scored an 8-foot hook shot to increase Houston's lead to 96-83 at 4:18 of the final stanza.

Sacramento managed to get within 7 (98-91) with 54 seconds remaining; however, Christian Wood and Gordon each scored 2 points to seal Houston's victory.

"If we want to be a good team for the rest of the year, it starts with defense," Gordon mentioned after the game.

P.J. Tucker added, "That's what defense is: it's all pride."

NEXT: The Rockets will face the Dallas Mavericks Monday, January 4, at 7 p.m. Central Time.

NOTES:

Houston recorded 10 steals and 10 blocks in today's game. The Rockets only had one game with 10 or more steals and 10 or more blocks in each of the past three seasons.

Sterling Brown had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Brown has scored in double-figures in three of the four games this season. He entered today shooting a league-best 73.3% from the floor and is now shooting 71.4%, including 9-of-15 from 3-point range.

The Rockets were 21-3 when the opposition scored below 110 points in 2019-20, including 4-0 below 100.

De'Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 23 points. Fox has scored 20+ points in five of the Kings six games this season. The last time Sacramento had a player score 20+ points at least five times within the first six games of a season was when current Rocket DeMarcus Cousins did so in 2016-17.

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