By: Forrest Walker
The Houston Rockets cannot be trusted. They've been working their way back to respectability, one game at a time, one win at a time. And just when they had a shot at climbing back up to .500, to getting a fresh start, they pulled the rug out. The only question is who they pulled it out from under: their fans or themselves? Right now it looks like both.
The story of this game is simple. The Rockets played badly, gave poor effort, and surrendered an 18-point lead that was too big to overcome once they did start trying. Oh, and the hits keep coming. They gave up wide open looks, they couldn't score on easy layups and most chilling of all, Trevor Ariza got injured three minutes into the game. He fell and bruised his lower back, and was questionable to return for a time, which hopefully means it wasn't too bad of an injury. It was a cavalcade of turnovers for both teams, with Brooklyn edging Houston 24 to 23. This was one of the ugliest basketball games in recent memory.
Was Marcus Thornton's line a positive? He scores 32 on 18 shots and notched 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals to go with it. He seemingly switched offense with James Harden for a night, who ended up with 10 points on 2-9 shooting. Corey Brewer was the only other player who looked alive in Brooklyn, and he didn't look much better than the awful he's been lately. It's just that "not-awful" was good enough for 22 points and 4-8 three point shooting tonight.
That's the crux of it. The Rockets are in a slate of December games which require them to be merely "not-awful," and they keep falling short of that mark. They made just enough progress to make this loss into a massive step back, even though it was only by five points. They should never have been down 18 to begin with. The number of opportunities they had to win this game were innumerable, and they turned them down one after the other.
Everything that can go wrong does. Everything that can not go wrong also goes wrong. The Houston Rockets are a team that is far, far less than the sum of its parts, and this frustration can't be helping them to make up that ground. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is trying new things, is doing whatever he can, but it doesn't seem to matter. Nobody can do less with more. This team is like watching someone deep in an addiction mull over whether they want to pull out of it or not, missing their chance in the meantime.
Here's the list of Rockets players who ended with more points than shots: Dwight Howard (10 on 5), James Harden (10 on 9), Jason Terry (8 on 5), Corey Brewer (22 on 16) and Marcus Thornton (32 on 18). Eleven players hit the court. They were still in position to win the game late, somehow. They still had a shot, and another shot, and another one. They cut it to within 4, with an open layup. Nope. Then they gave up an open three. They cut it to three and just had to get one stop. They couldn't. They didn't come close.
The Rockets may have lost the ball game, but they may just have beaten the Brooklyn Nets at their own game. For one night, just a couple hours, they faced off against a team with no lottery picks for years, no star prospects (unless you're really high on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), and no chance at landing anyone in free agency, and they looked more futile. The Nets may not have a shot at much of anything, but tonight their fans can remember this:
At least they're trying.
Maybe the Rockets will try one of these days, too.