The Rockets lost their second straight game to a championship defender. They are not on that level. Their inability to grab rebounds and inability to consistently hit shots will prevent them for winning more games against elite competition.
And that's, ultimately, what did them in against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 114-106 loss Friday night. James Harden was active and engaged, playing surprisingly well on defense. Corey Brewer was a menace on the fast break. The ball was zipping around. Clint Capela was playing good defense at the rim and Trevor Ariza was holding his own.
But the shots. Kept. Missing.
The Rockets led by as many as 12 points in the first half. At one point, they were shooting 50% from deep. In the second half, they shot 2-23 from distance. Clank after clank, wide open shot missed after wide open shot missed, the Rockets couldn't overcome it. It seems trite and cliché, but the most fundamental thing you have to do in basketball is make the shots you take.
This felt familiar as a loss, but it also felt different. Harden's effort level was high all game. The officiating was atrocious. Dwight Howard definitely deserved his first technical foul for hugging Kyle Singler's neck. The second one... not so much:
Not long after that, Corey Brewer went to finish a fast break, and found himself clubbed in the face by Russell Westbrook. There was no call.
The game was probably lost in that moment. The Rockets stopped attacking aggressively, and despite finding good looks from the perimeter, nothing went down. They were solid defensively, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were unstoppable. 33 and 12 for Durant, 26, 10 and 14 for Westbrook.
Harden had 33, 7 and 7. Corey Brewer was the only other player who did anything of note, scoring at will in transition (17 points), but his shot was as bad as ever, missing all five three-pointers he took.
Sometimes the shots don't go down. And sometimes, your team just isn't that good.