A perfect display of how dysfunctional this Houston Rockets team can be; 73 points in one half, 19 points in the second. The Oklahoma City Thunder come away with the 104-92 win that was mostly about 3-point shooting and timing, as Jeremy Lin gets left out when his team needed some intelligence on the court, and James Harden tried to save the day but to no avail.
The warning is always on the wall when a team throws all of its eggs in one basket. Counting on James Harden to win a game on his own, especially with such a negative momentum, is risky, and simply taking the easy way out. This wasn’t a great game for Lin, which usually struggles against the Thunder. He finished scoring 6 points on 2-of-8 from the field, but the Rockets’ best portion of the game (late in the second quarter) came when he was on the court and moving the ball, something that hardly happened in the second half. Kevin McHale took him out late in the third quarter and brought him back in with less than five minutes to play in the fourth, when the Thunder already had a firm grasp on things. The Rockets didn’t really play anything remotely smart to try and change the tide.
So what happened? The shots stopped dropping, the ball stopped moving, while the opposite worked for the Thunder. The Rockets hit 12 3-pointers in the first half and 0 in the second. They scored 10 points in the third quarter, nine in the fourth. James Harden was brought into the game with the Rockets still in the lead, but McHale’s (or Harden’s) decision to play one vs the world once again wasn’t very helpful against the Thunder who were playing their usual brand of excellent fourth quarter defense and hitting on all cylinders offensively.
We had a terrible time shooting the ball, laying it in, making simple plays. We couldn’t sustain anything offensively in the second half. Give them credit. They got out and got after us.
The Thunder shot only 6-of-25 from beyond the arc, but all of those 3’s came in the second half. Kevin Durant wasn’t having a good shooting day (not too many of them since Westbrook went down with an injury), but finished scoring 36 points, including 18-of-21 from the line, getting way too much help from the officials. Reggie Jackson with 23 points and a big night from Serge Ibaka (21 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks) were there to provide major help.
But the story here is the Rockets. No team should score only 19 points in an entire half, especially one with this kind of individual talent on it. The problem is the way these players are used, or misused. Dwight Howard didn’t get enough balls in the paint (5-of-13 from the field), as the Rockets tried to fight their struggles from beyond the arc by shooting even more from long range. James Harden’s answer to everything is keep the ball and shoot, when the Rockets needed the exact opposite to possibly get them out of a tough spot.
This was the worst point differential for a team between one half and the other (-54) in NBA history. It’s not just on McHale and Harden, obviously. Sometimes teams go cold and there’s nothing to do about it, but not even trying to think of a different way out of the situation they found themselves in, which meant using players who move the ball instead of hog it, shows another worrying sign that this Rockets team won’t be going very far this season.