By: Forrest Walker
The Rockets, until further notice, are bad. The crime scene is still red with blood and there are a lot of suspects. With the latest loss to a lesser team, the list only grows. The Denver Nuggets simply looked more engaged, more willing to work, and more talented than a Rockets team which has struggled to find a use for their pile of quality players. There's nothing good to take away from this game, and a game against a thirsty division rival looms after daybreak.
I'm not going to dive deep into a game which can be summarized pretty briefly. James Harden is doing too much, even though he's good at it. He can create and attack, but he needs to get the rest of the team involved, or the losses are going to pile up. It's unclear why this is proving so difficult for the Rockets, but it's a problem as old as time. They have lots of weapons and no coordination. Harden is a top five player in the league, but without making his teammates better, that doesn't matter for much.
Dwight Howard is playing well but has clearly lost a step. He can Still defend the rim and he can still grab a pile of rebounds, and he can even throw it down, but he's not rotating as fast and he's not as quick on the draw. His help defense has suffered and his post moves continue to strangle the Rockets' offense. No more Dwight post ups. Not now. Not ever. He's not the only one who looks like he's struggling, either.
Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer used to be a three and D tandem to challenge the league. Ariza is doing all he can on defense, but without Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley, most of the lineups he runs with just have too many defensive holes for him to plug up. His shot has suffered as well. In fact, everyone's shot has suffered. The Rockets can't shoot and Corey Brewer is leading that charge. He's leading lots of fast breaks, too, and failing to convert on most of them. He just looks bad and tired and it's not just him. Ty Lawson, for example, has yet to do anything or be used for anything. This is disheartening to say the least.
This is a team that should be better, but simply can't seem to get it together. The obvious suspect would be the coaching, which has yet to figure out much of an offensive gameplan beyond run a high screen and see what happens. Their defense was better last season, but has fallen off for a variety of reasons. The Rockets are playing well below their floor, and it's both confusing and disheartening for an organization that's made so many good moves.
If the current season history is any indication, they need to hope this stretch of easy games ends soon, because they can apparently only beat good teams.