No matter how big or small of a step the Houston Rockets take collectively during this rebuilding season, almost every moment is accompanied by some level of overreaction to the performance of rookie guard Jalen Green.
Green, the second overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, has enjoyed a fine debut season for the Rockets, averaging 14.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 32 games.
The Rockets will host the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday for the second of three meetings between the teams in a three-plus-week stretch.
Houston will do so having won three of five on its recent road trip, with the finale being a buzzer-beating loss to the Golden State Warriors. That road trip represented progress, but Green shot 27.3 percent in that span, so worries abound.
His shooting has been wayward: Green is making 38.1 percent overall and 29.8 on 3-point attempts, but that is to be expected of a slender 19-year-old still learning his way around the league.
Still, expectations have been exceedingly high for Green, so much so that criticism has followed when he doesn’t play closing stretches of blowout losses and concerns have overflowed when he shoots poorly.
“The things that I’ve been showing him and telling him are the offensive rebound that he got off the corner 3 that he missed, or the offensive rebound that he got from the other side, or the defensive play he made on Steph Curry in the midrange area of the left side in our last game,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said.
“Yeah, he’s not making a bunch of shots right now but he is improving in other parts of the game and that can’t get lost in the fact that he’s missing shots.”
The Spurs are in a position similar to that of the Rockets, laboring to compile four solid periods of play and to consistently win games when there are opportunities to do so. In their 115-109 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, the Spurs fell into a 15-point hole only to claw to within two points with 33.2 seconds left before ultimately suffering their 12th loss in 15 games.
San Antonio has enjoyed quality performances, notably from guard Dejounte Murray and center Jakob Poeltl, both of whom recorded double-doubles in the setback to Philadelphia. For Poeltl, his 25-point, 10-rebound effort marked his career-high 16th double-double this season. Murray, meanwhile, paired 19 points with 12 assists and finished a rebound shy of his third consecutive triple-double and 10th on the season.
Murray posted 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a loss to Houston Jan. 12, another game in which the Spurs struggled to capitalize on opportunities.
“Once again, I’m proud of the way they hung in,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the 76ers loss. “They didn’t give in, they kept going, they had their chances at the end. But you make it very difficult when you spot somebody a quarter. And we did it again, same thing we did last time we played them.
“We have to learn to compete from the get-go and be physical (and) be aggressive. And that has been a weakness all year and we haven’t been consistent in that regard.”