The loss was not only frustrating, but it was just plain bad. The Rockets had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but even still, had they just played defense a little more this game would have been theirs.
Last season, one game separated the two-seed from the five-seed in the West, and a game like Wednesday could be the one to keep the Rockets from the seed they want.
Allowing easy baskets, especially in the second
You could say the Rockets lost the game in the second quarter, when they allowed 32 points to the Magic. They Rockets ended up coming back in the closing minutes of the game, but had they held the Magic under 30 in the second it would have been an easier climb.
Aaron Gordon was a big cog for the Magic in the second, able to score eight points on "easy plays." He had two baskets in transition and two on put-backs.
The Rockets' defense in the paint was not very good on Wednesday night, and it wasn't just on Gordon. Tobias Harris also had a few very easy scores.
Rockets on simply just allowed the Magic to get inside the paint to easily. When that happens, it will usually not go well for the Rockets.
Was No. 3 really Ty Lawson?
The Rockets had a player wear the jersey number 3 against the Magic. The back of the jersey said Lawson, and it looked like Lawson. But no way that was the same Lawson that had been playing for the Rockets this whole season.
On Wednesday night, Lawson finished the game 11 points and 3 assists and the Rockets were +10 with him on the court. He was probably the second-best, maybe even the best, player on the team down the stretch.
Lawson was setting people up, dropping off assists to the bigs, getting into the paint and kicking it out. Lawson even provided the scoring punch that the Rockets needed, helping them get right back in the game in the fourth quarter.
The final two plays of the game
I'll take these one at a time.
With 14 seconds left in the game, Lawson had the ball and tossed it to James Harden, who was coming off a Dwight Howard screen. Howard rolled to rim as Harden got the pass, Harden took one dribble and leapt into the air to lob it to Howard, but Howard instead caught the lob and fell down. The play was pretty much over already, but Howard then tossed to Trevor Ariza for a rushed three.
Here's the problem: this was surely a drawn-up play out of the timeout. You do not see many lobs work in the last seconds of a game. This is a back-seat coaching thing, but I have to think there is better play J.B. Bickerstaff could have called.
The team's bread and butter is high pick and rolls. I thought they would have gone that way.
On the last play, the Rockets on the court were Marcus Thornton, Patrick Beverley, Harden, Howard, and Ariza.
The Rockets were down three, with Trevor Ariza inbounding the ball. Beverley took his guy down the baseline, Howard was trying to screen Harden, but he couldn't get free — the play was pretty much over at that point — and Thornton got free to take a rushed three.
Here's the problem: the second Harden couldn't get free, Ariza should have taken a timeout and Bickerstaffdrawn something else up. Also, on a last second shot, shouldn't you have four shooters on the court? Why was Howard out there? Just to set a pick? Lawson had been your hottest guy outside of Harden in the fourth, where was he?
On the issue of Harden was being held, I personally am not a complainer. A) You can't expect a call in the final second of the game. B) Both teams are holding each other, go back and look. Thornton is holding all over Nikola Vucevic.
Both are nit-picky things but thought they could have had something MUCH better on the final two plays.