After month off, Rockets rookie Jalen Green feels game slowing down

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  • Houston Rockets
    Houston Rockets
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  • Jalen Green
    Jalen Green
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For the first time in a month, the Houston Rockets heard a familiar name announced with the rest of the starters as they prepared to take on the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. Rookie Jalen Green scored 20 points in just 25 minutes during his return to the lineup after missing time due to a left hamstring strain suffered in late November.

“It felt really good,” said Green, asked about being back on the court. “I was just happy to get the minutes, because I didn’t think I was going to play that much. It felt good overall to be back on the floor.”

After missing his first shot, the 19-year-old drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and quickly showcased the work he had put in with assistant head coach John Lucas — who helped Green with the timing and release of his shot during his time off. From there, Green’s ability to knock down long-range shots opened the floor for teammates to drive into the lane.

“After that first one went down, I was like, ‘OK, it’s gonna be a good night,’” said Green, who finished the game by hitting 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range. “It’s like one, two seconds to get the shot up, so that was something I would keep in my head every time I caught the ball: One, two. And it worked, so I am just going to keep that same mentality.”

It wasn’t just the offense that stood out in Green’s return to the court. He was very effective in his 25 minutes on the defensive end, as well. His energy helped keep the Rockets, who were coming off a hard-fought loss against the Milwaukee Bucks the night before, stay in the game until the fourth quarter — when fatigue set in for his teammates.

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas was happy to see the improvements that the rookie has made in his game during his time away:

He was really good, Quick decisions, shot his catch-and-shoot. I think we saw less isolation, dribble, dribble, dribble, which is great. It’s definitely something to build on. To get 20 points in limited minutes in his first game out there is good.

Now, we have to see how he feels tomorrow, and that’s the big next step. Luckily, we have three days where he can do his rehab and be ready to play the next time he gets out there.

Green attributed his play on Thursday night to watching different aspects of the game from the sidelines during his rehabilitation.

“It felt like the game kind of slowed down a little bit,” said Green, who was taken at No. 2 overall in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft. “A lot of things I was reading from the bench, I was reading out there on the court and actually getting to do it. It slowed down a lot.”

Houston (10-23) will have a small three-day break over Christmas before resuming play at Charlotte on Monday.

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