Unless you've been ignoring the Rockets for the last couple of weeks, you're aware that the good guys just dropped four straight at the wrong time. By doing that, we've dropped to that wonderful "best team not in the playoffs" spot that we've enjoyed for a couple of years straight now.
Last year, the Rockets really struggled to find their groove during the season. Yao Ming played the first few games before reinjuring his foot and ending his basketball career. This left the Rockets without any semblance of a franchise player, and it showed. Kevin Martin stepped up to try and cover some, but his inconsistency and one-dimensional playstyle kept him from being the true cornerstone of the team.
This year, the Rockets really looked a lot better coming out of the gate. Kyle Lowry was playing out of his mind, averaging 16-7-9 over his first 15 games. When Lowry went down with a freak infection, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola (who until then had been suffering a poor season) really stepped things up.
For some reason, the last few games, the Rockets have been slumping. One major reason for this is that the Rockets lack any really good two-way players to base their franchise off of. Scola, Martin, and Budinger are terrible defenders and all somewhat streaky. Lee, Lowry, and Parsons two-way players, but are thus far too inconsistent on the offensive end. The closest we have to a truly good franchise player is Goran Dragic, and while he is a very good player, he can't be the best player on the team every night, and it's showing.
The other problem the Rockets have had all season is a bigman problem, and that problem is really killing them right now. Samuel Dalembert was brought in this year as a stopgap center to plug the gaping hole we had on the depth chart there, and he's turned out to be, well, Samuel Dalembert. While he occasionally shows flairs of greatness, on the offensive end he consistently makes terrible decisions, and on defense he fouls too much and either gets out of position or is just somewhat invisible. When the Rockets brought in Marcus Camby, this problem was somewhat alleviated, as Camby is still a great defender and a much smarter offensive player. Unfortunately, Marcus Camby is one of the oldest players in the NBA, and as an older player playing starters minutes, he's prone to injury. Thus, as he's been injured the last few games, McHale has had the option to either run Dalembert in crunch time and risk some boneheaded plays, or put Scola and Patterson in together and suffer a serious dropoff in rebounding.
The Rockets have been lauded this as a team that plays their heart out every night. Unfortunately, we're now finding out that a team really can't do that every night in this compressed schedule.