2013 ends tonight, and the Rockets have to be looking forward to it. The last two weeks have seen a slew of grim losses for the Rockets during an unforgiving patch of schedule. The Rockets were put through the wringer, and in the end weren’t able to hang on to win it in the last game of the stretch, a high-scoring but low-enjoyment affair between Houston and Sacramento. The Kings have been feisty as of late, and were able to beat the Miami Heat and then nearly upend the stalwart San Antonio Spurs, but the Rockets have managed to lose to the 13th seed Kings twice this season. With that dubious distinction intact, the Rockets head into the new year with a lot of questions and only a few answers.
The biggest question might be why the Rockets go away from working plans. When Houston began feeding the ball to Dwight Howard in the post, Dwight steamrolled the Kings, especially smaller defender Quincy Acy. The Rockets scored on three possessions straight this way, then later made no effort to go back inside to Dwight. Especially during fourth quarter crunch time, the Rockets could have used some higher percentage looks, and a chance to let the other players stand still for a moment, especially when the Rockets are still clearly feeling the effects of their recent busy slate of games. They had a win in their hands, but let it slip away, and it wasn’t the first time.
Hoping to close the year out with a win, the Rockets host Sacramento, owners of the second worst record in the Western Conference. One of the Kings nine victories came against the Rockets two weeks ago. In Rudy Gay’s first home game for his new team, the Kings beat the Rockets by 15. With Houston’s lack of consistency it’s become obvious that there aren’t going to be many easy victories this year.
Adding Gay hasn’t added up to more wins yet for the Kings, as they are three and seven in their last ten games (right at their season % of .310). Hopefully this game, Parsons can hold Gay to his average shooting percentage of .415. Cousins, Thomas and Gay were the leading scorers in that game and are the teams leaders for the year.
All That Power – The Rockets finish the year at no. 7 in Marc Stein’s ESPN Power Rankings, a one-spot improvement over last week:
The contention here is Sunday’s sorry showing in OKC was a schedule loss on the heels of Houston’s impressive Christmas Day dismantling of the Spurs and ensuing wins over Memphis and New Orleans. Having just three games in the next 11 days is a welcome break after some crazy travel.
I mean, if ESPN wants to blame that embarrassing beat down on the schedule, then who am I to argue? The Rockets moved the opposite direction in John Schuhmann’s rankings at NBA.com. He has them at no. 9:
The Rockets just played seven games in five cities over the last 10 days, a stretch that featured Christmas’ best performance (a comfortable win in San Antonio) and ended with a serious thumping in OKC. Now they get a well-deserved break and a chance to enjoy those Christmas presents they got from Dwight Howard, with only home games against the Kings, Knicks and Lakers over the next 11 days.
The cruelest ranking for the Rockets this week is Hollinger’s computerized system at ESPN. It ranks Houston at no. 11. Not a good place for a team aspiring to be a contender. [read more…]