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Another dismal loss as Rockets fall to Magic 126-106

Catastrophe Rockets

Orlando Magic v Houston Rockets
Walking in for more points.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets suffered their fourth loss in a row tonight, crumbling 126-106 to the Orlando Magic. There’s no comfort to be had in that score line. It’s as bad as it appears.

Right now nothing is in sync with the Rockets. This is a team that misses layups, flubs easy rebounds.

Defensively opponents are scoring on them at will in the paint, and from outside. They’re losing the rebound battles by miles, and getting no compensation in the form of turnovers. Tonight the Rockets had four more turnovers than the Magic.

Offensively, they can’t shoot from deep, and they can’t make layups. They can’t try anything else, because there is nothing else for them to try in their system. The whole team seems in their heads, and appears afraid to shoot the easy chances the offense generates.

James Harden had a bad shooting night at 6-19, but tellingly, it was not as bad as recent games. A broken James Harden more or less spells doom for the Rockets, unless Russell Westbrook and the rest of the team are stellar. Tonight, Westbrook was good, but not stellar.

The Rockets have now lost four in a row, with three losses coming against some of the dregs of the Eastern Conference: Knicks, Hornets and Magic. A loss to the Clippers is understandable. Losses to those other three aren’t.

It used to be that the Rockets could, above all, count on offensive production. Right now they struggle to break 100pts. It really does seem like the Rockets offense generates tons of open shots, and acres of space, but the team can’t do much with it right now.

Perhaps the current style of play requires using 10-12 players to maintain intensity. Perhaps the Rockets are just getting killed by teams that have tons of that deprecated position type, power forwards, because Aaron Gordon certainly dominated Houston tonight.

  • Is the problem that the tactic to unleash Russell Westbrook broke James Harden’s offense?
  • Is the problem a lack of confidence in shooting, spiraling down the slough of despond?
  • Is the problem that the Rockets mainstay are worn out from Pocket Rocketry?
  • Is the problem a doctrinaire lack of adjustment, or creativity?
  • Is the problem that sometimes you need an actual big man to control the paint, no matter how stout and scrappy your other players?

Whatever it is, I’ve not seen the Rockets look this comprehensively bad in a long time. Some of what’s happening seems to be a problem of cascading bad fortune, and that compounds itself with every failure to rectify it. Some of what’s happening is just plain bad play.

A week ago the Rockets were looking like a possible 2nd seed. Right now they look like a possible 7th seed for the playoffs. Hopefully a few days off can right the ship, but long term, a winning Rockets team can’t have James Harden playing as poorly as he has since the start of February.

Patience, though only 19 more games remain.

What else is there?



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