Monday, October 3, 2022
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Preview: Sacramento Kings (27-49) at Houston Rockets (20-56)

Having posted his third 30-point game of the season and his second this month, Houston Rockets rookie guard Jalen Green has put together a stretch of performances that appear to signal his arrival.

When the Rockets host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday in the first of back-to-back meetings, Green will be called upon to continue his strong second half with averages of 19.7 points (on 47.2 percent shooting), 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists post-All-Star break.

As the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, Green finally seems to be meeting his potential. In the Rockets’ 123-120 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Green scored 30 points and drained six 3-pointers to keep Houston in contention down the stretch.

His backcourt mate Kevin Porter Jr. has found his footing, too, with post-All-Star break averages of 15 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Of equal significance is the fact Porter has sliced his turnovers from 3.5 per game prior to the break to 2.3 since while thriving alongside Green.

“Scoot (Porter) is definitely not a selfish player at all, and there are times where he has it and maybe he gives it up to Jalen,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “It seemed like they had a very together game, those two. They’re starting to find chemistry between the two of them which is needed for sure.

“For them to combine for 56 points (against the Spurs) is great for us but I think the main thing that is important for those guys is where they combined for 11 assists and only three turnovers. With the issues we’ve had with turnovers throughout the season, especially at the beginning of the season, them playing together is good.”

The Kings, coming off a 123-110 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday, have essentially handed the reins of their offense to rookie point guard Davion Mitchell with veteran De’Aaron Fox sidelined by a season-ending hand injury.

In five games without Fox, Mitchell is averaging 21.6 points and 7.2 assists. He has a strong shooting line of .462/.393/.917, and although he recorded 3.4 turnovers per game during that stretch, Mitchell continues to provide feisty defense despite an increased offensive load.

That load includes an uptick in minutes, with Mitchell playing 41 minutes per contest.

“It’s what you expect when you see his work ethic, and I’ve said that before,” Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry said of Mitchell’s improvement. “He’s going to make himself the best player he can possibly be in this league because he’s going to put in the time and the effort to do it.

“It’s still tough playing him 40 minutes a night and him guarding the best player but he accepts that and he goes out and does the very best he can. I think you can see the improvement in his decision-making. The effort has always been there defensively so we’ve just got to continue to get better.”

Improving without Fox and Domantas Sabonis (knee) is a tall task for the Kings during this stretch run. Still, Mitchell seems reluctant to shy away from the challenge of steering the ship.

“He loves being out there and he wants to play,” Gentry said. “He played 46 (minutes) and thought he should have been in there a few more the other night (against Phoenix on March 20). That’s the kind of guy he is.”

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