The Houston Rockets weren’t prepared to play. There’s plenty to say about a game featuring the worst Houston loss in the calendar year, but all of it simply describes how little the Rockets fought back when the Chicago Bulls unleashed their attack. Barring injury, this was a worst-case scenario for a team that needed to get back on track, not farther off the rails. The Rockets forgot how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend, and how to care.
The silver lining on this burgeoning, dark cloud is that this might serve as yet another wakeup call for a team that seems to fall asleep easily. The comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers may have been impressive, but it’s been forgotten that the Rockets played haphazard ball to get there in the first place. Since their magnum opus against the Indiana Pacers, the Rockets have been lackadaisical and complacent, culminating in the most disappointing game of the season. The good news is that there’s nowhere to go but up. The bad news is that this is about the third time this season that’s been the case.
There were box scores, but do you want to know what they were? If you’re really curious, just look at Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard. The best starter outside Dwight Howard was Patrick Beverley who shot 3-9 and scored 9 points and looked like he was asleep for most of the game. James Harden was only technically present, Terrence Jones at least grabbed 9 rebounds, and the less said about Chandler Parsons’ 1-11 shooting night the better.
So what about Dwight? He looked out of sorts and turned the ball over 7 times and was still the best starter. His 5-7 shooting looks okay until you factor in the 7 giveaways, and 10 rebounds is, in fact in double digits, despite being a low number for him. Joakim Noah just outplayed Dwight Howard a game after Howard got demolished by rookie Steven Adams. Whatever funk Dwight is in has to break, and soon, as it’s absolutely mission critical for the Rockets to gain home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Jeremy Lin was the hero of the night, which on balance may be as important a positive as the rest of the game was a negative. 7-13 shooting for 21 points was a game high, 2 assists was merely okay, but his 0 turnovers were great for him. Lin was aggressive and fearless, and the hopelessness of the situation probably helped him take some of the pressure off. Whatever the cause, this was the sort of game Jeremy will have to keep having if the Rockets hope to make a deep playoff run. If this game is a kick in the backside for the team and a kickstart for Jeremy, everything will come out in the wash.
The two biggest concerns that showed were a continuing three point slump and terrible corner defense. Houston shot a truly grisly 19% from deep, only hurting a season average well below the 37% they’ll need to actually make some noise. Whatever the reason, the Rockets’ shooting woes have been worse than last season and refuse to go away. The Bulls, on the other hand, ended up shooting over 58% from three point range, and in the third quarter, when the game was already out of hand, had shot over 70%. The corners were left wide open all night, giving Carlos Boozer ample space for his mid range shots and, oh yeah, letting the Bulls perimeter players, all of them, hammer in three after three.
It was horrible.
This game was ugly, nasty, painful, and pointless. The Rockets pulled their starters to wave the towel with about 9 minutes left in the game. The Bulls didn’t do the same until less than 3 minutes remained. That five or six minutes in between were simply the icing on the cake for an insulting, disappointing game. After being obliterated by San Antonio, the Bulls were out for blood. They wanted so much blood that a 25 point lead with 5 minutes left wasn’t big enough for them. The Rockets, on the other hand, just looked like they wanted to go home.