It’s hard to know what to do with games like this, in stretches like this. Last night the Rockets got shellacked by Cleveland. Tonight, they went back home to Houston to play the New York Knicks less than 24 hours after that contest ended.
They’re going to play five games in seven nights, and it’s not terribly helpful that the middle game of this stretch was one night back home.
Still, that’s the game on hand, and that’s the league, and every team goes through the same things. Interestingly, good teams stay good on the Second Night of a Back to Back, though they do lose more, but bad teams get much worse. .500+ teams evidently win at a .656 clip normally(as of 2016), and win at .603 pace on B2B. Bad teams? They win at .358 overall and .244 on a B2B. The Rockets are a bad team. But it gets worse, if the B2B is home/road (but road/home, unknown) sub .500 teams win at a .195 rate. Which is pretty bad.
We can add to that the Rockets missing most of their starting lineup with Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green out and Armoni Brooks missing most of the game as well.
The Knicks were missing several players as well, of course, but did have rest, which the Rockets haven’t gotten, and can’t expect to have for some time, as the pace of games will decline, but they will play the next five game on the road (before returning home to play the Lakers in, you guessed it, another back to back, on the 28th).
This isn’t the place for a full analysis on schedules and if it all really does “even out in the end” for every team (it doesn’t, if only because Denver and Utah receive such a strong homecourt advantage already, one which only increases with any team on a back to back in their arenas).
Anyhow what did we see tonight?
We saw the Rockets come out and go behind early. The Knicks were shooting lights out, and the Rockets were lethargic and had that kind of “no legs” shooting performance that usually spells doom. The Knicks on the other hand saw their halftime 3pt percentage regress by games end to...47% from around 65%. Some of that was poor defense, some was poor rebounding, and some was just shooting luck.
When the team went down they turned to their prodigy Alperen Sengun to straighten things out. But for whatever reason, Mitchell Robinson being the sort of defender he simply hasn’t had to deal with before (long, springy, quick, aggressive) or he was tired, he didn’t have it tonight: 1pt, 2rb, 1ast, 2blk but also 4TO, and 3 fouls in 15 minutes. There’s no need to defend this, or find fault with others, like coaches, because there’s no real need to worry. This is normal for rookies. This happens.
But not every Rocket had a bad game. Perhaps sniffing the fresh air coming through The Trade Window opening, Daniel Theis had 22pts on 8-12 shooting, 10rbs, 1ast, 1stl, 2blk and 1TO in 33 minutes of play. That should get him some attention, as he was playing the same good defensive Knicks bigs in the form of Nerlens Noel and the aforementioned Robinson.
JaeSean Tate had another good game, matching the Knicks primary creator Julius Randle, on more efficient shooting (20pts, 3rbs, 6ast).
The Rockets got down by as many as 21pts in this game, but roared back to trail by only 6 at the half. The good play continues into the third quarter, and the Rockets very briefly took a 2pt lead. But perhaps it was the effort of the comeback, the B2B and the fact that the Knicks absolutely MUST put teams like the Rockets away if they want to turn their season around, but the Knicks pulled away and absolutely smoked the Rockets in the 4th quarter.
That’s how it goes.
The next game is a Saturday matinee in Detroit. Perhaps some Rockets will be healthy by then.
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