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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets hold off the Bucks, 112-108

POSTED: January 6, 2024 -- 11:25 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- Friday night, after getting "bullied" in a 122-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr said to the media "Just flush it. Learn from it. Get ready for the next one."

The "next one" happened Saturday night; and, the Rockets' bounced back with a 112-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

"They (the Bucks) tried to impose their will; and, the game got a little mucked up and a little ugly in the second half; but, we held on," Ime Udoka, Rockets Head Coach said after the game.

Jabari Smith Jr swished a corner 3 with 92 seconds remaining to boost Houston's lead to 9 (108-99) with 92 seconds remaining.

Alperen Sengun made a great bounce pass to Smith along the baseline; and, Smith calmly nailed the shot.

"That's why they call him the Wizard," Smith said of Sengun's bounce pass.

Smith finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds, marking his sixth double-double of the season and his first since at New Orleans on 12/23.

The Bucks (25-11) trailed the Rockets 28-19 after the first period because of poor field goal shooting (7 for 18 fgs and being out-rebounded 14-10 in the quarter.

Houston (18-16) made 9 of 21 shots (42.9 fg%) in the first quarter and 13 for 23 in the second half to expand the lead to 63-43 at halftime.

"It was a great first half," Coach Udoka added after the game. "It was one of our best in a while, especially against a high-scoring team."

Milwaukee's offense remained in neutral into the third quarter. Houston's lead did not get below 10 points in the third quarter -- even though Bucks' forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 of Milwaukee's 30 points in the quarter.

Jeff Green scored 8 of his 16 points in the third. Uncle Jeff made timely baskets to help keep the Bucks' at arm's length.

Houston led 89-73 after 3 quarters. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 of Milwaukee's 30 third-quarter points. Damian Lillard made 2 of his 4 field goal attempts in the third; however, Lillard was only 3 for 12 from the floor through three quarters.

Giannis kept attacking the basket in the fourth quarter and scored 17 of the Bucks' 35 fourth-quarter points. The Rockets' offense struggled to make any field goal attempts. Houston missed 15 of 20 fgs in the fourth but went a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul line to earn the win.

Alperen Sengun had a team-high 21 points with 11 rebounds, marking his 11th double-double of the season and his first since vs. Indiana on Dec. 26.

"Of course, we had a rough game yesterday; but, today, came here, and played as hard as we can," Sengun mentioned in the locker room. "And, we won the game."

After the game, Jeff Green said, "I always say we got to win by committee. Everybody do their part. Everybody do their job. Tonight, was a showcase of that."


The Rockets won 112-108 despite being outshot 46.1% to 43.4%. Milwaukee is 18-3 when outshooting opponents this season. Houston is 8-6 when shooting below 45.0% this season after going 6-31 in 2022-23.

Giannis finished the game with 48 points and 17 rebounds, marking his second game with 40+ points and 15+ boards this season and the 11th of his career (including 41 and 17 at Houston on 12/10/21). Dating back to 1975-76, that is the sixth-most games with 40+ points and 15+ rebounds by any player. In seven games played going back to Christmas, Antetokounmpo is averaging 35.1 ppg and 14.1 rpg while shooting 63.2% from the floor.

Uncle Jeff played a season-high 34 minutes of play off the bench. The 16 points ties his previous season high set at Milwaukee on 12/17. The 34 minutes are the most by a Rocket 37 or older since Jason Terry played 35 in overtime at Sacramento on 12/11/14.


The Rockets' next game is Monday, January 8, on the road, against the Miami Heat. Tip is set for 6 p.m. Central Time.

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