The issues that are endemic with the Houston Rockets are often commonplace with the younger teams in the NBA, with variances in performance and consistency yielding a wide range of results.
After winning five consecutive home games, the Rockets dropped their second straight contest in Houston on Saturday, falling 107-95 to the Portland Trail Blazers with an effort that bore little resemblance to the competitive zeal Houston delivered when it was stringing victories together at home.
The Rockets will host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday seeking to rediscover the level of play they displayed before their current slide.
Staggered by poor perimeter shooting early, the Rockets seemed unable to find their touch and confidence in the second half. Houston started 0-for-10 from behind the 3-point line en route to a 3-for-29 shooting display from deep, one that affected their overall offensive approach.
“We want to take good shots, and in the first half we were taking really good shots,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We were getting offensive rebounds (11 prior to the break) and crashing the boards to keep staying in the game because the shot quality was good. You’re going to have nights where you don’t make shots, but the ball movement just has to be better.”
With the starting backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. shooting a combined 8-for-26 overall while missing all 12 of their 3-pointers, the Rockets bogged down offensively in the second half. Houston totaled just seven assists while shooting 39.5 percent after the intermission.
Following his ragged start from the perimeter in the first half, Green did not attempt a 3-pointer after the break. He and Porter both failed to record an assist in the second half despite logging 13 and 14 minutes, respectively. With their primary scorers struggling, the rest of the Rockets followed suit, further emphasizing the need for ball movement when the shooting is wayward.
Similarly, the Spurs surrendered the momentum generated by a surprising three-game winning streak with back-to-back, double-digit losses to the Trail Blazers and Miami Heat. San Antonio had dropped 11 consecutive games before a Dec. 8 victory over the Rockets, then shockingly managed winning efforts in Miami and at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But almost as quickly, the Spurs struggled to muster the requisite energy needed to turn back Portland before coming undone in the fourth quarter against Miami in Mexico City on Saturday.
The Spurs shot just 4 of 12 in the final period while committing seven turnovers against Miami. The Heat posted a plus-14 scoring margin in the fourth quarter with 12 paint points and six second-chance points, exemplifying the vigor that the older, veteran Heat played with. The younger Spurs, so spirited in recent games, didn’t have the energy to draw from when needed.
“We’ll never know the answer because they’re humans,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the inconsistency. “You try to figure it out but it happens to even the very best teams in the league. Some nights you just don’t have that juice.”
–Field Level Media