The Houston Rockets slide continued with another surprising loss to the plucky New York Knicks, 107 - 102 at the Toyota Center on Saturday night.
Rookie Kristaps Porzingis put on a clinic in being six inches taller than anyone else by grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking 7 shots. The 7'3" 20 year-old rookie is drawing compliments around the NBA as a potential franchise player. On Saturday night his promise was the Rockets demise.
Here's three takeaways after the Rockets fell to 5-9 on the season.
The Houston Rockets were not expecting the Latvian to be as athletic, aggressive or big as he is. Porzingis came over for block-after-block against hapless Rockets looking for layups or dunks in the lane. He stepped out on whoever was guarding him and drained threes.
The Rockets were just not prepared for this early season sensation.
To make matters worse, once Clint Capela fouled out the Rockets were left guarding Porzingis with Terrence Jones. Leaving a half a foot mismatch on the glass and allowing the Latvian to soak up every inch of the lane on defense. This proved untimely in the closing minutes when James Harden was desperate to find a few feet of space.
J.B. Bickerstaff Isn't A Quick Fix
Rockets fans are learning this is a process, not a quick fix. The team rebounded after McHale's firing with a comeback win against the Trail Blazers, but have now dropped consecutive games against the Grizzlies and Knicks.
The Rockets remained listless in both games taking the floor with a touch of bewilderment and apathy.
In January 2004 a talented New Jersey Nets team fired head coach Byron Scott after back-to-back NBA Finals appearances. They wanted to make a switch after an underachieving half a season that didn't meat expectation. New head coach Lawrence Frank ran off 14 straight wins after taking over and powered the team to the second round of the playoffs.
Moral of the story... If the Rockets hoped for a quick spark by introducing J.B. Bickerstaff, it looks like the team will have to grapple with more systemic problems first.
James Harden Did Beard Things -- Lawson Did Nothing
James Harden found a rhythm in the first three quarters. He finished the night with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals and only 3 turnovers. That's the type of line the team will need out of Harden on a regular basis. Harden found himself stymied in the final five minutes of the game when the Rockets needed him most though. The inability of the Houston Rockets to create any offense requiring defensive attention allowed the Knicks to close in on the beard.
Ty Lawson posted an invisible night. He posted more turnovers than assists and was glued to the bench fr the close of the game. Jason Terry posted 31 minutes in this contest. Now the Rockets have moved past using Ty Lawson in the first unit, the team has to ask serious questions about the proper way to use him in the second unit.