No Harden? No problem.
Playing without perennial All-Star and leading scorer James Harden, the Houston Rockets easily handled the Kings on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Center to open 2021.
Led by the strong play of John Wall, Eric Gordon and Christian Wood, the Rockets propelled themselves past the Kings in the fourth quarter to come away with the 102-94 victory.
The Kings never looked like they found their offensive flow. They forced the action, dribbled the air out of the ball and the veteran Rockets took full advantage.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped their second straight in Houston to fall to 3-3 on the season.
De’Aaron Fox vs. John Wall
Wall used to be one of the fastest guards in the league. After two years away from the game healing from an Achilles tear, he still has the ability to get loose, but he’s more crafty now without the top gear.
Fox has taken up the torch as the fastest player in the league and he put on a show in Houston.
The two went at it all night, with Wall dropping 28 points and six assists to Fox’s 23 points and four assists. Wall outplayed his young counterpart and also helped lead his team to the win.
Hot and cold
Buddy Hield came into Saturday averaging a pedestrian 16.8 points per game while shooting 36.7 percent on his 3-pointers. He looked more like himself against the Rockets.
Hield put on an offensive show early, knocking down five big shots from 3-point range. He even hit a few from way outside.
As the game went on, Hield cooled off. He finished with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting from behind the arc.
Be quick, but don’t hurry
The above quote from legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden might perfectly capture the Marvin Bagley experience so far this season. In just his 81st NBA game, Bagley is trying to find the balance between being aggressive and playing under control.
Against the Rockets, Bagley forced the action from time to time, but overall, he was really good. The third-year pro finished the game with 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Bagley chipped in nine rebounds, barely missing his third double-double of the season.
When Bagley slows down and allows the game to come to him, he’s very good. He still needs time to get comfortable after missing major time last season.