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The Rockets' small ball starting lineup might be dead

Small ball might be coming to an end, and other takeaways from the Rockets home loss to the Trailblazers.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The winning streak came to an end Saturday afternoon with a home-court loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets looked awful, allowing the Blazers to score at will and at the half, the game was a blowout. The Rockets did manage to make it a game in the closing minutes but it mattered not.

Small ball may be coming to an end

Back to back games now the starting unit—which consists of small ball with Corey Brewer in the starting lineup—came out slow and unimpressive. While it was a nice little change of pace when the Rockets started using it, teams might be starting to figure it out and it's just not effective anymore.

Post game J.B. Bickerstaff shared some frustration from the past two games.

"That's two games in a row where I felt like our starts were subpar," Bickerstaff said, "the energy wasn't there, there is no excuse for the way we played tonight."

The problem is the Rockets don't have a consistent power forward. Donatas Motiejunas is still in the D-league, Terrence Jones has a concussion (he'll be out for a while).

The Rockets have three options, they could start Montrezl Harrell (which I actually wrote that they should) or the more realistic options: Clint Capela goes back to starting or they insert Josh Smith back into the first unit.

Whatever it is, something will change.

"There's a ton of different things we can do, there's tinkering with the lineup again," Bickerstaff said, "there's a bunch of things we can do, will talk about it as a staff and will figure it out."

Defense, starting to be laughable

The Blazers didn't score more than 100 points or shoot over 50 percent so it wasn't that bad, right? Yes, it was. The defense was porous, slow, and jumbled all game long.

The Rockets offered almost no resistance to the Blazers' dribble-drives. Nobody stepped up to stop Damian Lillard's penetration, so when he go into the lane, it was either an open shot or a pass of to a wide-open man. The Rockets allowed guys to shoot over the top of them at the three-point line rather than run them off their spots.

James Harden walked around on defense, wouldn't step up to fill the lanes. Time after time someone would drive and he'd be near, rather than try and take a charge he just swats at the guy as they blow by him.

He wasn't the only guy bad defensively, but you are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Harden is the weakest link on defense.

"Just a lack of effort at times, lack of concentration," Trevor Ariza said of defensive woes.

Bickerstaff was a little more frank.

"As frustrating as it is and as repetitive as it is, when we decide we want to defend, we're capable," Bickerstaff said while also pointing out that they held them to 41 points in the second half of the game.

I may never understand Bickerstaff's rotations

So many times Bickerstaff has touted the fact that guys will earn their playing time. If a guy is playing poorly, he usually will go in another direction. When things are going well, you'll stay in the game.

The Rockets are getting blown out in the first half, yet Clint Capela, Jason Terry, and Marcus Thornton all played around three minutes. Why?

How is that any time for any of those guys to get any type of flow or rhythm going? You are down so much, and your best gun off the bench (Thornton) only gets one three?

In the game against the Suns, the starters weren't getting it done and Bickerstaff went to the bench and it worked. The Trailblazers didn't jump out to a quick double-digit lead like against the Suns, but it was clear the starters weren't cutting it.