It was the kind of game all of our Twitter followers knew was coming -- the let-down game. The Houston Rockets were rested, at home and facing an 0-7 Nets team, and they fell completely flat in the second. The ball just wouldn't find the basket in the second and fourth quarters, and the effort just wasn't there all around.
The Rockets got straight-up embarrassed on the glass against a team without all that much size. They lost the rebounding battle 60-45 and gave up over 30 second-chance points. Kevin McHale went small because that's what's worked so far, but he failed to capitalize on the Nets' size deficiency and it bit him, hard.
The only player that came out ready to play was Marcus Thornton. He had five assists in the first half (a season high even at that point), and was really flying on the fast break when few others were. He finished with 21 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. Against all odds, he's staked out a major place in the rotation until further notice.
Once again, this team goes as James Harden goes. When he was hitting early in the second and third quarters, the Rockets looked like themselves. When it wasn't falling, they looked helpless. He couldn't find it as the Nets pulled away in the fourth quarter, and no one stepped up in his place.
Dwight Howard had one of his best box score lines of the season so far -- 20 points, 17 rebounds and 5 blocks -- but defensively, he was slow on rotations and allowed tons of offensive rebounds on his watch. He just didn't look consistently engaged. Offensively though, he resisted the urge to waste possessions on post-ups and finished well on putbacks and alley-oops (aside from a couple of blocked putbacks against Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter). That's exactly how he can be a force on offense as well as defense. I have faith that the defense will come against better teams.
Man, Ty Lawson still does not look right. He was 3-11 for 8 points, and wasn't a confident distributor or penetrator all night. What's more, he made Shane Larkin look so good that the young Net played damn near the entire second half.
Meanwhile, Corey Brewer's ice-cold season continues. He was a -15 for the night, worst on the team, and though he's always good for a couple of amazing finishes on the fast break, he's been a complete liability in the half-court offense. His continued presence in the lineup as K.J. McDaniels gets sent down to Rio Grande is frustrating, but he's a veteran and we know he'll go on a hot streak at some point.
Patrick Beverley made his return from a concussion, but only played 9 minutes as Jason Terry was the first guard off the bench. He'll play more next time out, surely. Terrence Jones also made his return from injury, coming off the bench and looking as out-of-sorts as the rest of the team. As he gets his legs back, he should also improve.
The Rockets are not where they want to be, and their 4-4 record somehow seems a little lucky. Dare I say, they look like they miss Josh Smith, who gave them size and a ballhandler with the second unit. Some combination of Ty Lawson and Terrence Jones need to fill his void (and whenever Donatas Motiejunas returns would be great with us). Their next game is on Friday against the Nuggets in Denver. Obviously, it won't get any easier than it should have been against the Nets.