If there were any concerns over how swingman Danuel House Jr. would fit upon his return to Houston's rotation on Friday, they were summarily dismissed when he picked up right where he left off before a contract dispute left him relegated to the G League two months ago.
House made his 13th start in his first action since Jan. 14 and matched a season high with 18 points in the Rockets' 108-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Houston improved to 10-3 with him in the starting lineup, with House averaging 11.2 points on 48.3 percent shooting from 3-point range in those games.
When the Rockets host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Toyota Center, House will likely reclaim his role as a reserve (he replaced the resting Chris Paul in the lineup against Phoenix). His performance Friday served as a reminder of what the Rockets were missing.
"It was really important," House said of playing well. "It was really important because I wanted to showcase what I'm worth to the team and what I can contribute and what I can bring to the team."
That House reclaimed his stride almost immediately could serve as a boon to the Rockets, who are setting their rotation during this stretch run and for the postseason. Houston has abundant depth and House, who had his two-way contract converted into a standard NBA contract last Wednesday, is one of several candidates in the mix for a viable postseason role.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that the Rockets forgot what House brings to the table. But, from his perspective, it burnished his profile to provide a reminder on his talents.
"He's perfect for our system," said Rockets guard James Harden, who assisted on the House 3-pointer with 55.2 seconds remaining that essentially sealed the victory. "He's very skilled and athletic and can do a variety of things on the basketball court."
While the Timberwolves remain mathematically alive in pursuit of a postseason berth, their realistic hopes have been dashed by a 5-7 record since the All-Star Game.
Minnesota had won three of four games before suffering consecutive blowout losses to the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, losing by a combined 46 points in dropping the first two legs of a three-game road trip that ends in Houston.
With one eye on the future, the Timberwolves have offloaded additional playing time on rookie forward Keita Bates-Diop, a second-round pick (48th overall) out of Ohio State. Bates-Diop has logged double-digit minutes in 10 of his last 11 games, averaging 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds during that stretch. Prior to that run, Bates-Diop had totaled 33 minutes in six games.
"I think the biggest thing with Keita is just his positivity and his optimistic views on just the situation," fellow Timberwolves rookie Josh Okogie said. "His situation wasn't easy at all. Obviously, we both got drafted. He had to go to the G League and he went through a whole season of not playing. But just talking with him he's always been optimistic. He has great energy and it's all paying off for him."
--Field Level Media
House ready for more as Rockets host Timberwolves