Having suffered a disappointing loss last weekend in their opening away league game with a depleted team, a vibrant and resourceful Rockets stepped up in a big way to take the scalp of Cavaliers, one of the teams expected to be vying for honours this season.
American guard Nick Richards went out of the trap like a greyhound as he stole Cavaliers’ first possession to score before the returning A J Carr hit his initial points of the new season having just arrived after visa delays. Cavaliers stroked the first of their 2 trebles but a Richards slam and Carr pull up shot kept Rockets ahead. Australian Ben Dixon then scored with a reverse lay-up immediately followed with a superb treble off a Pau Mayor cross court dish. However the talented Cavaliers, who had height advantage with 5 guys 6’7” and above, went on a 17- 4 run to lead 26-17 causing Rockets Head Coach Alan Keane to call a time out . Ed Potter strode onto court and does what he does best, disrupts Cavaliers plays and fights tenaciously for the ball as he scored four quick points and disturbed Cavaliers though they still took the period 32-26.
Mayor gave another assist to Liam Davis to have Rockets score first and though Davis and Potter added to Rockets’ tally early in the second quarter, another treble from Cavaliers saw Rockets deficit now seven points. Just midway through the period Rockets found themselves 32-45 adrift. Matias Boho joined Richards and Davis in now helping Rockets offensively whilst Potter was prominent in defensive mode. Richards drove and strode, Boho glided to score, Davis played hard inside to convert opportunities whilst Dixon sent an exquisite bounce pass and drove to score as Potter took a charge. Rockets had truly ignited and went to the interval just a single point behind at 51-52 as they had gone on a 19-7 run
The impetus stayed with Rockets as they tore into Cavaliers with another 18- 8 run to lead 69-60 thanks to more from Richards and Davis and more importantly a brace of downtown trebles from A J Carr…a pleasing return to court in a Rockets vest as he settled again into the English game and recovered from his jet lag having only arrived 48 hours before. Sam Grant hit a treble but Cavaliers didn’t want to taste defeat on their own court and with a 12-5 run including a buzzer beating score had cut the deficit to 74-72 in Rockets favour.
Despite Richards scoring off the glass with the opening score of the final quarter Cavaliers edged ahead with five unanswered points but Boho drove, scored, drew the foul and hit the penalty shot only for Potter to copy that moments late and see Rockets 82-77 ahead. Davis was called for his fifth and excluding foul but Carr and Boho saw Rockets maintain a four point lead with just over four minutes remaining. A brilliant Dixon steal and four consecutive Carr points saw Rockets enjoy an eight point advantage at 96-88 .
The appreciative spectators from both teams were loud and expressive as both teams fought for the victory. Dixon’s floor hustle roused Rockets and great vision from Carr as he inbounded at the defensive end of the court and threw an arrow pass to Richards the length of the court which saw Richards score, draw the foul and sink the penalty shot to ease Rockets to a comfortable lead at 103-92. Richards then hit all four free throws as he was fouled and Boho finished Rockets scoring as they took a key win 108-93. They had turned a 13 point deficit inside the first 15 minutes into a 15 point victory through improved defence in the second half, better rebounding and gelling as a team throughout the game.
Top scorers for Rockets were Nick Richards with 25 points, A J Carr and Matias Boho with 20 point each, Liam Davis with 18 points and Ben Dixon and Ed Potter also with 11 points apiece.
Rockets now look forward to a pair of home consecutive games