The Rockets failed to gain any momentum in the second game of the J.B. Bickerstaff era, as a horrid offensive performance had them falling to Memphis 96-84.
The Rockets started the game with energy and ball movement, draining their first three shots, but things went south from there, as the Rockets finished the first quarter shooting only 3-15 and let an early lead slip into a 21-18 deficit.
The drought continued into the second quarter, as the Rockets fell down by 15 before strong play by Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard got them back within 8 points. But bad defense the rest of the half allowed Memphis to spring back out to a 59-45 halftime lead.
Things got even more grim in the 3rd quarter, as the Rockets fell behind by as much as 20 and mostly looked like they could barely stand being on the court with each other. A little fire was lit by a K.J. McDaniels appearance, as he played some tough, energetic defense, while Ty Lawson finally hit a couple shots to close the Rockets to within 9 points at the end of the 3rd.
But just when things were looking up for the Rockets, the bottom fell out completely. An embarrassing display of sloppy turnovers and missed shots had the Rockets without a field until 3:50 left in the fourth. Yes, the Rockets went 8:10 without a field goal in the fourth quarter to ruin what actually ended up as a decent second half defensive performance.
When the offense is playing well, the defense isn't, and when the defense is clamping down, the offense literally can't hit a shot. One hole is plugged only to spring a leak elsewhere.
Among the putrid Rockets offensive stats were 37.8 percent shooting from the field, which is the seventh straight game the Rockets have shot under 45 percent as team, 6-29 shooting from three point range, 23 turnovers and 15 missed free throws.
The Rockets held the Grizzlies to just 42.4 percent shooting and under 100 points, but the offense was just too poor to overcome. It's been beaten to death here at TDS, but the lack of chemistry the team is showing right now is simply shocking.
James Harden led the Rockets with 22 points, but shot just 1-7 from downtown, committed six turnovers and continued to look out of step with just about everyone. Trevor Ariza had 19 and was probably the most active Rocket offensively, and Dwight Howard had 12 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks and was once again the best overall Rocket on the floor.
K.J. McDaniels scored just 5 points on 1-6 shooting in 15 minutes, but his 5 rebounds and strong defense likely earned him some time moving forward over the struggling Marcus Thornton and Corey Brewer, who shot a combined 2-15 tonight.
Marc Gasol had a 16-11-11 triple dip for the Grizzlies and Mike Conley torched the Rockets back court for 26.
The Rockets have a fast turnaround, playing again tomorrow night at home against the New York Knicks, so there's no time for Bickerstaff and the team to work on anything, which is unfortunate, because just one game after a winning debut, the Bickerstaff Rockets sure look a lot like the McHale Rockets.
There were a few small glimpses tonight, especially on the defensive end once the Rockets settled into a groove, but this is still a terrible team offensively. We can only hope they get it together before it's too late.