Last week, the Houston Rockets used an epic second-half comeback to down the Philadelphia 76ers, and it appeared for a bit that the boys in red would pull off the same magic tonight. But they went completely cold down the stretch, missing 9 of their final 10 shots from the field, as they fell to Philly 115-107.
The Rockets never led, going down early by giving up a season-high 37 points in the first period with some shoddy defense, and they never quite recovered. They battled back to within one point in the fourth period, down just 106-105 with just three minutes remaining after an Eric Gordon three and two free throws by James Harden, but would get no closer.
They had a chance to take the lead shortly after, but Clint Capela missed a layup off of an awkward pass from Harden, and Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza both missed wide-open threes with under a minute to go to seal Houston’s fate.
The Rockets were again led by Harden and Gordon, as The Beard racked up 29 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, while Gordon put up 25 points and knocked down 5 triples, but Houston’s three-point shooting struggled overall, going just 13-47 from beyond the arc, and it wasn’t enough to overcome a defense that allowed Philly to shoot 55 percent from the field.
Clint Capela had another fine game for Houston, going for 12 points and 15 rebounds, but the major contributions ended there. Trevor Ariza continued to struggle mightily with his shot, going just 1-9 from deep and 3-12 overall for 7 points, while Home Ryno was also in full effect, as he shot just 2-9 from downtown and 4-11 overall for 11 points.
The Houston bench was also dominated, as they were outscored 40-23 by Philly. P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute played solid defense as usual, teaming up for 4 steals, but they also shot a combined 2-7 from deep and 5-13 overall.
The 76ers were led by Ben Simmons, who went for 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists on 10-15 from the field and Joel Embiid, who put in 22 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block in just 25 minutes of action. They also got 17 from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, 14 from Dario Saric, 12 from Amir Johnson, 11 from T.J. McConnell, and 10 Jerryd Bayless, as the Rockets let half the Philly team go off for double-digit scoring.
The Rockets were mostly healthy tonight, save Chris Paul, and as they continue to struggle with their shooting, they’re going to need to find their groove soon before a five-game stretch starting November 5 that has them up against the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies (again), Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors.
Before that, the Rockets match up with the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks, so if there ever was a time for Houston to look like the Rockets team we expected this season, that will be it. They’re now shooting just 30 percent from three for the season, and with the team jacking up 44 treys a game, that’s not going to cut it.
They were lighting it up from beyond the arc in the preseason, so hopefully it’s just a matter of some normally fine shooters — Ariza (currently 21 percent from deep on the year) and Gordon (currently 29 percent) in particular — getting hot again.
We’ll see how Houston responds Wednesday night at the Garden against the Knicks.