The Rockets lost again Monday night, this time by 13 to a Bucks team on a five-game losing skid. They’re now 3-5 since their nine-game winning streak, the worst eight-game stretch of the season so far.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. He was the best player on the floor, particularly on the defensive end and in transition, where the Rockets had no answer for his length.
James Harden had another mind-blowing stat line — 26 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and a block — but only shot the ball 10 times and turned it over 11 times. Many of those turnovers were of the careless variety in the third quarter when the Rockets were trying to close the gap and retake the lead.
The biggest problem was not Harden’s laissez-faire game, however. It was what happened when he went off the court. The Bucks outscored the Rockets 14-0 in the second quarter with Harden sitting, and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when Harden took his second breather.
Whereas the Rockets’ bench has typically extended leads this season, the group of Patrick Beverley, Eric Gordon, Corey Brewer, Sam Dekker and a mix of Nene/Clint Capela did diddly-squat in their time of the court. While I had fun assigning Darren’s well-written, balanced “Is Corey Brewer secretly good?” we can lay that to rest. He had a nigh-impossible -22 in just six minutes of game action.
Dekker sopped up most of the minutes Brewer wasn’t on the floor, and he wasn’t much better, shooting 2-7 from the floor and 0-3 from deep. The Rockets as a team shot 40 percent behind the arc, but their inability to stop Giannis and Jabari Parker (28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) doomed what was, save for the turnovers, a perfectly acceptable offensive performance.
The Rockets’ Eastern Conference road trip continues Wednesday against Boston, followed by Friday against the Philadelphia Processes, finishing up Sunday against the Pacers. They’re still three games ahead of the hobbled Clippers and three games back against the Spurs. There’s no cause for concern, only frustration. But this was a frustrating loss.