Wow. 69 points. The last time the Rockets scored so few points was March 19, 2008 against the New Orleans Hornets. The Rockets shot 29 percent from the floor. And they won. They're 9-1 now, even though the last couple of wins have not been of the feel-good variety.
Amazingly, this game was even uglier than Friday's win over the 76ers. The Thunder are just one step up from that team in terms of talent, and once again, the Rockets played down to their competition. They remained ice cold from three, shooting 7-of-35 from long range after hitting 7 of their 34 attempts on Friday. They were tentative around the basket, getting their shot blocked 15 times. It is probably safe to say this will wind up as the lowest scoring game of the Rockets' season.
You name the facet of this game, and it was sub-par, besides the defense (which we'll get to). The ball got sticky, and it didn't seem to take long for everyone besides Francisco Garcia to lose their confidence. Cisco had his best game of the season so far, by the way, hitting a couple of key three-pointers in the middle portion of the game. (Yes, I know he still missed a bunch, but so did everybody.)
Dwight Howard had his worst game of the season so far, missing a lot from the post (and of course from the free-throw line). Once again, Kendrick Perkins proved to be his bugaboo (and Steven Adams wasn't half bad when matched up with Dwight either). He only scored 12 points, and only brought down nine rebounds, failing to reach a double-double for the second time this season. Also, in a chippy moment late in the third quarter, Kevin Durant called him a "pussy" from the bench. That was interesting.
James Harden also had his worst game of the year, continuing his poor shooting from the field (5-of-17 tonight). He did hit a critical three pointer with a minute left in the game to take the lead, but it was after a lot of hero ball. He was not the slash-and-kick distributor he needs to be, as he (along with everyone not named Ariza) settled for a lot of step-back jump shots.
Ariza also had a key three late in the fourth, but his shot wasn't falling early and he knew it. He was very aggressive driving the lane, which is a good thing, but he was also wild at points, taking tough layups while ignoring his open teammates.
The third quarter was easily the worst quarter of basketball the Rockets have played this year. They had as many turnovers as points in the period (nine), and many of the turnovers were unforced. On consecutive possessions, Tarik Black and James Harden just dropped the ball out of bounds. It was brutal.
On a positive note, with Pat Beverley back in the lineup, the Rockets were as stingy defensively as we've come to expect from them this season. Pat combined with Trevor Ariza to largely shut down Reggie Jackson, and in general the Thunder got very few open looks. Everyone gave solid effort on that end, despite how poorly they were shooting. That's a very encouraging sign.
Beverley was not good offensively, however. Once he missed a few shots in the row, he ceased trying to do anything whatsoever. And Isaiah Canaan did not play a minute for some reason, after doing some good things in Pat's stead. Coach McHale's rotation decisions continue to be head-scratchers. Troy Daniels got a little bit of run in the late third/early fourth, but was tentative, passing up open looks and only registering one field goal attempt (a miss from three).
One more positive note: the Rockets were very active on the offensive glass, and while randomness always plays a big factor, their consistent effort was heartening among all the terrible basketball.
Seriously, what an awful game. But the Rockets have won nine of their first ten games, which is not something I saw coming. Better days are surely ahead.