Confidence fuels Rockets’ Jae’Sean Tate on offensive end of court

Back on Nov. 23, media members lined up along the baseline to catch a glimpse of a practice session for the Rockets that was merely a walkthrough. At the time, Houston had lost 15 consecutive games.

Most players were still fatigued from the 108-90 defeat against the Boston Celtics in TD Garden the night before, which concluded a winless four-game road trip and left the Rockets searching for answers.

As some players headed back to the locker room, one player was actively involved in getting extra work in with the assistant coaches. It actually looked as if forward Jae’Sean Tate could be ready to play a game on that same day, if one was scheduled. The additional drills may have stemmed from the fact that Tate only scored 6 points on the previous night, which is unacceptable by his standards.

“All we can do is to continue to trust the work and be in here,” Tate said. “Confidence is everything. Everybody has to be more confident in themselves, and ultimately that will allow us to play better, make more shots, and better reads.”

Confidence has clearly become the mantra for Tate in this current four-game win streak by the Rockets. In the last three games, he has averaged 21.0 points, 6.7 assists, and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 66.7%. The physical second-year player from Ohio State attributes his recent offensive success to a lineup change giving him more space to operate.

“When they put a bigger guy on me, it exploits the mismatches,” Tate said when asked about being moved back to the power forward position. “With a bigger guy, I get to slip out of screens and attack downhill, but with a smaller guy, I can get more interior touches.”

On Wednesday, it didn’t matter what player Oklahoma City put on Tate. With center Christian Wood (ankle) and point guard Kevin Porter Jr. (thigh) leaving early due to injury, it looked as if the Rockets winning streak would be halted, and their road losing streak would be extended.

Yet, Tate took command of the game scoring 32 points, to go along with 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocks in a 114-110 victory.

Tate’s 17 first-half points kept Houston within striking distance of the Thunder, but he came up big in the fourth quarter when the Rockets needed him most. The 26-year-old scored 13 of Houston’s 41 points in the final period, helping erase an 81-73 lead after three quarters.

Tate, who was selected to the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie Team, is known for his toughness on the defensive end of the floor. But he’s also very efficient when called upon to carry the load on offense. When asked why opposing teams overlook his ability on offense, Tate said:

That’s not my primary role. I think everybody knows that. But I’m very confident in what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring-wise but just seeing the floor and being able to make decisions in space. That kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.

Houston (5-16) is back in action on Friday as they look to extend their winning streak to five versus Orlando (5-18). It’s the start of a four-game homestand for the Rockets at Toyota Center — and while the availability of Wood and Porter appears to be in some doubt, they should certainly still be competitive — thanks to players like Tate.

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