Houston’s sixth consecutive win, which came Sunday night at home versus the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets, was perhaps its most impressive of the 2023-24 season to date.
One big reason was veteran forward Jeff Green, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets pulled away. And as it turns out, he also made some key contributions on defense.
Over an extended stretch in the fourth quarter, Denver missed seven consecutive shots with its starting unit on the floor.
“It was clutch,” head coach Ime Udoka said. “Until they got some late layups and 3s… I thought we defended excellent in that fourth quarter. To stretch it to 10 in that quarter, defended at a high level.”
One reason appears to be Green, who played valuable minutes with the Nuggets on last season’s title team and apparently brought some of that insider knowledge to his new teammates.
Here’s Udoka, via The Associated Press:
All week, he had a ton of advice and experience, and he was out there being the quarterback on defense, calling out their sets and what they were getting into. He had that familiarity with the team, and obviously that was helpful.
He was calling out every play there at the end, so I’m sure they weren’t very happy with him.
But he was calling out all the plays, he knew what was coming, and he helped us a lot with the game plan and scouting. He knows guys’ tendencies.
Offensively, he got to the [free throw] line, hit 3s, being on the glass… he’s huge for us, coming off the bench.
The next challenge for VanVleet and Green’s new-look Rockets (6-3) is taking their home success inside Toyota Center to the road, where they are 0-2 on the season. Their next opportunity comes in Los Angeles on Friday night versus the Clippers in a game which starts a three-game West Coast road trip. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. Central.