I'm going to keep this short. This is the tough part of the season - the Rockets' playoff hopes are dead, both of the team's stars are shut down (such is life as a Rockets fan, I suppose), and interest turns to the draft and rooting for whoever takes on Utah in the playoffs (looks like the Thunder right now).
AB continues to struggle, as he has for a few weeks now. That's concerning for a variety of reasons, though it can be easily explained away as having to bear an even greater scoring load, as well as a simple shooting slump. Sure, 21 points, is a fine night for him, and 5 rebounds is great, but he needed 18 shots (not awful or anything, but he needs to do better), only dished out three assists, and committed SIX turnovers.
That is awful.
Yeah, it's a bad night when your starting point guard throws the ball away more than he throws assists.
The interior defense continues to suck. Chuck's playing hurt, and it shows in the numbers. And so does Battier's absence. Despite what some seem to think, this is not the inevitable product of Rick Adelman's defensive schemes (he's actually a great defensive coach, or else Elston Turner is, but whatever) - it's simply the product of not being a great defensive team in the first place (tough when you can't defend the rim without generating a steal, charge, or shot) and injuries.
On the other hand, Kyle Lowry looks much, much better. The Rockets are fortunate that he didn't injure himself further over the past week or so, but I suppose there's no one to replace him (Taylor/Budinger as backup pg?), and he wants to audition for his fancy new offer sheet this summer. He gave the team enough in the fourth quarter to pull together a mildly dangerous little run, bringing the Rox within eight of the hated Spurs, but one guy can't do it. Not when Luis and Brooks aren't getting many good looks or converting their few opportunities, and not when the Spurs can get whatever they want inside.
Taylor and Budinger continue to show off their skillsets, as does Hill. Three legit rookie contributers? That's pretty awesome, though all need work in a lot of areas (Most important for each - Taylor: polishing his offensive game; Bud and Hill: DEFENSE, DAMMIT). There's a lot of reason to be excited for next year, folks.
And that's all there is to it. "Next year." Ugh. I hate that.
I'm not saying that Rockets games are pointless now - anything but that, really. But the orientation is clearly no longer towards this season, and that's inevitably frustrating as a fan. Tough night, then, particularly to see the Rockets come pretty close, but never quite finish the job.