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Rockets blow big lead to Thunder

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Third quarter collapse leads to close loss

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul looked great tonight.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

At one point the Rockets briefly lead by 26.

At halftime they lead by 22.

At the end of the fourth quarter they trailed by 5.

In the midst of that was perhaps the worst quarter of basketball I’ve seen the Rockets play this season, and I’ve seen some truly bad ones.

The Rockets continue, it seems, to believe it is last season, and when they build a sizable lead, they’ll be able to keep scoring enough to maintain that lead. This has rarely happened in 2018-19. Instead a mentally absent Rockets team was forced back into the game it should have controlled. James Harden undertook heroics on offense to save things. Often he does.

Tonight it didn’t work. Harden injured his shoulder early in the game, and despite continuing his 30+ points streak, never looked quite right.

Oklahoma City feeds off mistakes, and their athletes thrive on chaos. Usually they’re not nearly as good a team in the half-court. Tonight, though, Paul George seemingly made everything, and if he missed, he got free throws for falling down, which he did a great deal of, irrespective of contact.

The entire Thunder team followed suit, and extreme falling down, combined with aggressive defense, and some hot shooting in the third quarter, brought them a win.

Really, though, this was the Rockets game to lose, and they managed to do it. Their was no energy on defense until mid fourth quarter. The careful Rockets of the first half, that turned the ball over only twice, managed to triple that number in the third quarter, allowing OKC to attack on the break both off missed shots and turnovers.

The downside of James Harden’s brilliance was on display late in the game, where instead of attacking and dishing, he’d hold the ball and put up a contested shot late. The team that unlocked OKC’s defense in the first half played entirely into their hands in the second.

Tip your hat to OKC, they made shots, played hard, and fell down better as a team than any unit I’ve seen outside of San Antonio. No doubt they’d see it differently.

The main issue going forward, of course, is James Harden’s left shoulder, which was massaged, and also iced during the game. Still, Harden scored 42pts, which seems to be his new benchmark. It’s amazing to say that perhaps it wasn’t the right 42pts. That sometimes the hero doesn’t save the team in the nick of time.

As goes Harden, so go the Rockets, for better, and occasionally, worse.

In better news, assuming Harden is well, Chris Paul looked great with 18pts, 10rbs, 9ast and 2stl. When the offense was in his hands the Rockets generally looked less predictable, and therefore, scarier.

Poll

Worst loss of the year?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Yes.
    (211 votes)
  • 25%
    No.
    (131 votes)
  • 22%
    I truly hope so.
    (113 votes)
  • 10%
    The Dallas option means you love OKC tonight.
    (53 votes)
508 votes total Vote Now