Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Houston Rockets are the ones who become the first team that loses to the Brooklyn Nets this season. They’ve been inconsistent, even when James Harden and Dwight Howard are playing, since 2015-2016 began.
The Nets are no longer last in the NBA, leaving the Philadelphia 76ers as the only team in the league without a victory until now. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points off the bench, getting help from Joe Johnson who finished with a 16-10 double double (assists, surprisingly) and Shane Larkin added 15 off the bench, as the Nets outscore the Rockets 27-15 in the final quarter, filled with good defense and actually making shots that usually don’t bounce well for them.
But the story here isn’t the Nets, a team that shouldn’t make the top 8 in the East, and if they do, it says things there are even more terrible than before. The issue is the Rockets, a team presumably aiming to win a championship, but might have gotten weaker during the offseason by losing Josh Smith, who played a huge part in their run to the conference finals in 2014-2015. From searching constantly for a power forward the Rockets have moved on to not playing with one in the lineup. The result? They’re 4-4 so far.
This is the regular season, which means one loss shouldn’t be over analyzed. However, the way the Rockets defense didn’t make it difficult on the Nets in the fourth and how simple and selfish the offense became in the fourth quarter tells us something about this team, going by this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this sort of performance from them. It’s either poorly coached in terms of things that are slightly more complicated than give the ball to James Harden or lob it up to Howard, or these players can’t think about anything more sophisticated.
Maybe the biggest example of inconsistency has been Ty Lawson, scoring just 8 points in the loss, going 3-of-11 from the field. It might take him more time to adjust to life next to a dominant ball handler. These are general problems for the Rockets to work out. In their loss to the Nets, it was making shots, or not making them, that was the difference. The Rockets got easy points in the paint (66), but couldn’t hit 3-pointers (8-of-34) and didn’t learn when to stop trying, not going for the right matchups that worked better for them earlier in the game.