The Houston Rockets have still won a lot of basketball games but the latest losses do sting. What’s up? Here’s the latest battle they’re trying to win.
This past Wednesday night, the Houston Rockets played the second game of their doubleheader, coming home to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite being questionable with his injury, P.J. Tucker was cleared to return along with Russell Westbrook amid Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Houston with a healthy Trail Blazers team.
Playing back-to-back, it has been proven that James Harden usually isn’t effective by the second game, and with coming off a 40-point game Tuesday, he was going to have to step it up in order to compete against one of the highest-scoring backcourt combos in the league.
The first quarter was rather solid for the Houston Rockets, Harden drained a three on their first possession to get the momentum started for the night. Clint Capela also had a solid first-quarter offensively as well as defensively and cleaned up well after the guys. Despite it being the only solid quarter we would see all night, the Houston Rockets trailed Portland by two at the end of the first quarter, with Gordon leading with eight points.
The Houston Rockets came back to play the second quarter, in what was a substantially slower-paced game than the one they played against the Memphis Grizzlies. We saw a few hints of James moving without the ball trying to make things happen, as well as Ben McLemore and Eric Gordon, hitting key shots in an attempt to close in on the Trail Blazers.
It was a very quiet first half for Harden, who was proving the statistics about his performance in back to back games, to be true. As I mentioned earlier, Tucker was a game-time decision and maybe that was the reason for his timid play against the Blazers, who knows but nothing was happening in favor of P.J. either.
The Houston Rockets were down by 13 at the end of the half, Russ led with 16 points and Capela was still playing solid defense ending the half with 12 rebounds. Our newly-appointed Western Conference Player of the Month finished the half with just eight points.
The Houston Rockets returned the second half and the momentum just couldn’t pick up for them. I respect Westbrook because no matter who they play, in spite of his situation, Russ always brings the same energy to the court and that night was no exception.
Westbrook, being one of the league’s leaders of fast-break points, came back the second-half and single-handily tried to push the pace of the game every chance he got. Although some guys proved to be not as hungry, Gordon and McLemore were buying in and were on board. At this point, it seemed as though Capela and Harden had gone cold and couldn’t seem to warm back up.
The Blazers were dominating on offense, as was Melo who thrives off of isolation plays, usually against Harden. The Houston Rockets just didn’t have an answer for it. Finally, at the end of the 4th quarter, the momentum for the Houston Rockets started to pick up and the lead was just at arm’s length for them. McLemore stepped up and hit multiple key shots when the Rockets needed him to, to close in on Portland.
Gordon was also a key factor in regard to closing in on the Blazers on both sides of the ball. Russ hit yet another 30+ point game and with just under four minutes to go with the team trailing by nine. Similar to Tuesday, a lot of calls weren’t going in favor of the Rockets and with just under two minutes to go, the refs dismissed one of Capela’s free throws because of P.J. being in the lane too early. After that our shots just weren’t falling and we lost 117-107.
Tucker and Harden both finished the game with five fouls. Westbrook finished the game with a triple-double and another 30+ point game to add to his collection. Gordon finished with 20 points, McLemore with 17, and Harden with a career-low of 13.
It’s clear that the Rockets are no longer floating on Cloud Nine like they were just two weeks ago. Fast-forward to the post-game interviews, D’Antoni tells us that the lack of consistent wins is due to the definite “lack of energy on the court” but also due to a handful of players not being as
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healthy as they seem. D’Antoni continues his interview to tell us that their problem as a majority veteran team, already halfway through the season is because of his players “fighting through injuries which takes away from a collective spirit.”
So he tells us not only is P.J. hurt, Capela is fighting injuries as well as Gordon, so that makes me wonder why not take them out and allow this time for them to heal, instead of making these players even more susceptible to injury.
When asked about his thoughts on yet another rough game from James, he admits that he as well as the whole team just “couldn’t knock down shots like they should be able to” and that they “have to do better on defense.” D’Antoni ends the interview, as he usually does, leaving us all with a little bit of hope, saying “every ship gets rocked” but he has no doubt that “the vets will pull the Rockets through.”
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So that’s it, the latest battle the team is trying to win is by fighting to stay healthy while out on the hardwood, which for the time being, has been a challenge.