With a chance to close out a five-game road trip on a four-game winning streak, the Rockets coughed up a game in a major way, allowing the Charlotte Hornets to score 125 points and getting blown out of the gym on the way back to Houston.
The reasons for this loss will not be a mystery to anyone who has watched the Rockets this year. The Hornets had no trouble generating open layups and dunks and three-pointers. Meanwhile, the starting five for the Rockets shot a combined 1-15 from deep. James Harden shot 2-14 from the floor, and, despite dishing out 10 assists, didn't do enough on defense to make up for such an abysmal shooting performance.
All of the hallmarks of a 2015-2016 Rockets loss were in this one as well, including the most consistent motif: going down big to start the game. At one point early in the second quarter, the Rockets were doubled up, 38-19, as Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson picked the defense apart inside and out.
Predictably, the Rockets made a run and closed the lead to the small single digits in the third quarter, but, predictably, the Hornets parried that run and responded with one of their own, pushing the lead well over 20 in the fourth quarter and prompting J.B. Bickerstaff to remove his starters with a few minutes left in the game and give Andrew Goudelock his first run as a Rocket.
Michael Beasley again showed the dynamic scoring ability that enticed Daryl Morey to sign him out of China, dropping 15 points in 15 minutes. But he also fit right in with the Rockets that struggle with help defense, struggle getting back in transition and struggle navigating the pick-and-roll. Despite playing less than a third of the game, Beasley had the worst plus-minus on the team, at -28.
Some other, disorganized thoughts:
- Donatas Motiejunas played the first five minutes of the game, and that was it. He didn't play poorly either. You get the feeling he's starting more to make things right after the trade debacle, and not because Bickerstaff actually wants to play him.
- K.J. McDaniels played more minutes when the game was still in the balance. He once again played well, too. The fact that this is coinciding with Corey Brewer's best stretch of play this year (he led the Rockets with 21 points) is encouraging. There's room for all three of K.J., Brew and Trevor Ariza
- The bigs played pretty well. Dwight Howard was by far the best Rocket in the first half before disappearing somewhat in the second, Montrezl Harrell and Clint Capela seem to show expanding offensive repertoires every game. The argument that neither of them can get their own bucket in the post is holding less and less water.
- Patrick Beverley has been invisible on offense for like a month.
- This was the last game of a long road trip against a really hot, really good team. It's not a terrible loss. The Rockets have today to regroup before a huge game at home against the Grizzlies tomorrow.