The Houston Rockets continue to play shorthanded, and they continue to struggle. Down Christian Wood, Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker, the Rockets spackled together their 15th starting lineup of the season and leaned on John Wall in the hopes of getting past the Washington Wizards, the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
However, despite Wall’s season high 29 points and 11 assists, Houston was unable to stop anyone on the defensive side, falling 131-119 and giving up 52 percent shooting to Washington in the process.
Bradley Beal lit up Houston for 37 points, and Westbrook, everyone’s least favorite ex, went for a very Westbrookian triple double of 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists on 8-22 from the field.
Houston’s once formidable defense has been decimated of late by injuries and the resulting inconsistent lineups. When the lineups were stable, this team was able to build communication and effective varying of drop and switch defense, which is significantly less effective with numerous rotation players in and out of the lineup and the Rockets’ big center Wood in the trainer’s room until further notice.
The Rockets weren’t terrible offensively, shooting 47 percent on the night and finishing with all five starters in double figures, but this team isn’t talented enough to be missing four regular players and still compete. This Rockets team is at their best playing together as a full group, with heart and with chemistry to compensate for lack of top-end talent, which is simply an impossible task right now with so many guys out.
In addition to Wall, the Rockets also got 19 points and 11 rebounds from David Nwaba, 18 points on 8-12 shooting from Jae’Sean Tate, 17 points from Danuel House, and 12 points and 7 boards from DeMarcus Cousins.
Houston’s biggest bench production came from Sterling Brown, who finished with 9 points, and in another unfortunate injury moment, newly-signed Ray Spalding played just 10 minutes before hurting his Achilles and needing helped off the court. Stephen Silas was not optimistic about the prognosis.
Stephen Silas says the prognosis for Ray Spalding, who went out with an Achilles injury, “is not good.” pic.twitter.com/ar0OfNwueT— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) February 16, 2021
As for the Wizards, in addition to the big games from Beal and Westbrook, they also got 18 points from Davis Bertans, 15 from Moritz Wagner, 13 from Rui Hachimura and 12 each from Robin Lopez and Raul Neto.
The Rockets now fall to 11-17 on the season, as they plummet to the bottom of the Western Conference standings, standing in next to last at the time of this writing. While they are just three games out of the eighth seed, with no lineup stability and the return of Christian Wood nowhere in sight, this season has the potential to fall apart before the Rockets have a chance to put it back together again.
Houston will look for a spark on Wednesday night, as they head to Philly to take on Daryl Morey’s 76ers.