BBNBA: John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins impress in first game as Houston Rockets

Aritcle written by:Zack GeogheganZack Geoghegan

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John-Wall
<small>Cato Cataldo | Getty Images>small>
[caption id="attachment_331292" align="aligncenter" width="864"] Cato Cataldo | Getty Images[/caption] Good afternoon, folks. Wall and Boogie are BACK! Let's talk BBNBA.

RECAP

Wall shines as he and Boogie make Rockets debut

First, it was multiple injuries, then a COVID-19 scare, but John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were finally able to make it back to the hardwood on New Year's Eve, this time as teammates on the Houston Rockets. Wall hadn't played in an NBA game since Dec. 26, 2018, due to a series of foot surgeries, one of which resulted in multiple infections that made him briefly wonder if he might have to amputate his foot entirely. Luckily though, it never came to that point and his lengthy rehab process had the nine-year veteran looking spry in the preseason. As for Cousins, Thursday night was his first on-court appearance in a meaningful game since the middle of June 2019 when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors, who fell to the Toronto Raptors in the Finals. Separate injuries to his Achilles, ACL, and quad over the course of roughly 18 months had him on the mend for quite some time. Then, to make matters worse, he and Wall were forced to quarantine for an extended period of time after coming in contact with a teammate who tested positive for COVID-19. Both Wall and Cousins are currently 30 years old, and there were reasonable concerns about how they might perform after so many injures and a lengthy break away from basketball. Wall, in particular, is a player who heavily relies on his speed and athleticism, and suffering a ruptured Achilles can be career-ending for his playstyle. However, the last few years have proven that modern medicine can help athletes overcome injuries, even ones as serious as Achilles or ACL tears, to the point where they look like it never even happened. After watching Wall play on Thursday night, he is a shining example that you can still come back from even the most severe of wounds. He dropped 22 points, six rebounds, and nine assists while shooting 8-20 from the field and 2-8 from beyond the arc in 36 minutes to help Houston takedown De'Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings, 122-119. Fox went for 22 points, five rebounds, six assists, and four steals, but shot 9-23 from the floor including a 1-7 mark from distance. The Kings cut Houston's lead down to just 118-117 with 22 seconds left, but late free-throws from James Harden sealed the win for the Rockets. "It was great to get our first win," Wall said after the game. "My job is to help James [Harden] as much as possible and to try and make it easier for him.'' The former Kentucky point guard actually played more of an off-ball role alongside Rockets star James Harden. But both players shared the rock as the primary ball-handler and could act as a double point guard backcourt moving forward. Wall is 6-foot-4 and Harden 6-foot-5, so it could be a match that works enough on both ends of the floor to stay sustainable. Harden added 33 points of his own while fellow Rockets teammate Christian Wood posted 21 points and 12 rebounds. That trio is going to be fun to watch the rest of the season--if Harden does decide to stick around, that is--and even more so when Cousins gets on the floor. Boogie saw 14 minutes of action for Houston, registering eight points and three assists on a 3-5 shooting clip. In his first couple of minutes off the bench, he quickly drained a 3-pointer. The layoff didn't appear to knock him off his game too much. https://twitter.com/HoHighlights/status/1344803624237588481 Like, check out how smooth this looks. https://twitter.com/iam_johnw/status/1344816685228781573 Cousins' role with Houston is likely going to be as a role player off the bench, but if he can embrace that, having a big man who can stretch the floor is always a plus for any team looking to make a playoff run. The Rockets have been a tire fire internally to start the season, no thanks to Harden's trade demands, but Boogie has taken the command as a vocal leader on the floor and off of it. The Rockets might be your new favorite League Pass team... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc_7YlUXkP4

This Devin Booker guy is pretty good

The Phoenix Suns are good, too. I'm fairly certain I said something similar about them around this time of the season last year (and to be fair, they were decent!), but this time I truly mean it. And I have plenty of evidence: Chris Paul, the steady improvement of Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson, depth across the board, a brilliant head coach in Monty Williams, and most importantly, a 24-year old rising superstar in Devin Booker. Against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night, Booker dropped a BBNBA-high 25 points in addition to his three boards and seven dimes. He shot 10-17 from the floor and didn't even need the outside jumper (just 1-2 from downtown) to fall in order to control the game. Booker did turn the ball over six times, a continuing theme for him this season, but the Suns' defense played at a high level all night long to mask those mistakes. The Suns did not trail once over the final three quarters and held Utah to just 41.7 percent shooting from the field. The Suns move to 4-1 on the year for the first time since the start of the 2009-10 season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP7YazFSHYY

Thunder and Knicks blown out

It was a bad end to 2020 for two of the BBNBA's most popular teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to New Orleans Pelicans, 113-80, while the New York Knicks were toasted by the Toronto Raptors, 100-83. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an off-night across the board against the Pellies, registering just eight points, four rebounds, and four assists in 28 minutes. He shot 3-10 from the floor, as this was the first time this season through four outings he failed to score at least 23 points. Hamidou Diallo wasn't any better in his 17 minutes, posting just three points and three assists on a 1-6 shooting mark. Darius Miller was a DNP-Coach's Decision for the fourth consecutive game this season. The former Wildcat has not played in a regular-season game since March 28, 2019, mostly due to injury. But the team that did win, the Pelicans--also the same team that traded away Miller over the offseason--were working OKC from start to finish. NOLA saw seven players finish with double-figures in scoring, including Eric Bledsoe, who went for 17 points, three rebounds, and three assists on an impressive 7-11 shooting clip. Up in Canada (well, actually, down in Tampa Bay, FL), the Raptors didn't need much to grind up the Knicks with a 100-83 victory. Julius Randle had his first subpar outing of the season, but still posted a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds in addition to five dimes. He did, however, shoot just 5-12 from the floor, missed all four of his 3-point attempts, and turned the ball over three times in 37 minutes. Kevin Knox was able to match Randle's scoring output, adding 16 points of his own while hauling in six rebounds. He was firing in rhythm during his 31 minutes, going 5-14 overall and 2-8 from beyond the arc. It was Knox's first double-digit scoring game this season and the most since he posted a 17-point game last January. Nerlens Noel contributed six points and six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench while Immanuel Quickley continues to recover on the bench with a hip injury. New York shot just 36 percent from the floor, making just three of its 36 3-point attempts, putting an end to their three-game win streak.

Other notes from across the BBNBA

Tyrese Maxey played his best game as a Philadelphia 76ers rookie thus far, hitting double-digits for the first time with 10 points, two rebounds, and one steal in 21 minutes, shooting 5-9 from the floor. Check out the entire box sheet below.

STATISTICS

[table id=622 /]

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:00: Grizzlies @ Hornets (Monk, Richards, Washington) 7:00: Celtics @ Pistons 7:00: Heat (Adebayo, Herro) @ Mavericks (Cauley-Stein) 7:30: Hawks (Rondo) @ Nets 8:00: Bulls @ Bucks 8:00: Wizards @ Timberwolves (Towns, Vanderbilt) 8:00 (NBATV): Lakers (Davis) @ Spurs (Johnson, Lyles) 9:00: Suns (Booker) @ Nuggets (Murray) 9:00: Clippers (Patterson) @ Jazz 10:30 (NBATV): Trail Blazers (Kanter) @ Warriors (Mulder)

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2021-09-24