Another loss. That makes five in a row.
In clutch situations, I've been told that good defense is more vital to victory than possessing a "clutch" or "star" player. Saturday's result against the Utah Jazz does well to back up this statement.
The Jazz didn't force anything upon their star player, Deron Williams, in overtime. They simply used Williams to draw a double-team off the pick and roll in order to create an open shot. Paul Millsap happened to be the beneficiary of this strategy and knocked down each shot that was afforded to him.
Likewise, the Rockets made it to overtime only because they were able to get stops on defense. They hit some clutch shots, too, but none of these came from one single player. If anyone was the star tonight for Houston, it was Brad Miller. He took two charges late in the fourth quarter that prevented two layups for Utah. There is no difference between what Miller did and what Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James could do if they were to make two straight two-point shots late in a game. Regardless of what looks flashier, the Rockets ended up swinging four points into their favor.
Sadly, Miller couldn't hit a single wide-open three on the other end and Houston's frontcourt was so gassed by overtime that the pick and roll proved to be unstoppable. I'm a little curious as to why Rick Adelman left Patrick Patterson on the bench after Millsap hit the first jumper. "It's Pat" was fresh and had stopped Millsap all game long. Scola wasn't needed on the ensuing possessions, anyway. At worst, the Rockets could have subbed Scola in on a dead ball had Patterson forced a miss from Millsap.
But that's not what happened. Instead, the Rockets have lost five straight despite holding late leads in two of their last three games. Their latest exercise in second half futility magnifies the depletion of this roster. Houston simply isn't good enough to hang with many teams once the game turns dicy. In the opening quarters and in those moments where folks watching on TV at home might get up to go make a sandwich or change the channel briefly -- those are the Rockets' minutes. But otherwise, the Rockets and their troublesome defense keep coming up short.
In particular, Houston has not been able to capitalize when the chance to close out a team has presented itself. The Rockets have now outplayed two superior teams and have built up big leads, yet they've still found ways to lose. It's not as if they have been getting pummeled throughout -- in most of these outings, they've been better for most of the game. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to be better at the end, when it matters most.
I don't have much to say when Deron Williams shoots 5-16 and his team still wins. That's what really stings the most.
(Another thought. I want one person for this team: Andrew Bogut. It will NEVER happen, but that's what I want. How valuable does that kind of player seem now? Makes Oden-Durant debate a little easier to understand.)