Unlike other losses this season, the 117-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder wan’t about James Harden hogging the ball, Jeremy Lin not being involved enough or the Houston Rockets being an awful defensive team and often not a smart one on offense, courtesy of their quite conservative head coach, Kevin McHale. Well, maybe it does have something to do with defense, but more than anything it comes down to one thing: Fatigue.
The Houston Rockets aren’t the first team this season to play four games in five nights, but like many others who have to go through this schedule treatment, there comes a point when your energy levels reach zero. The Rockets were out of the game from the first moment against the Thunder, looking tired in their feet movement and in their inability to think. They turned the ball over only nine times, but they shot an awful 36.5% from the field, as Chandler Parsons was the only player from the starting lineup to crack the 40% barrier.
Jeremy Lin and James Harden combined to shoot 22.2%, scoring 14 points and going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. No plays, no elaborate schemes. It was mostly taking bad shots, Harden-style, or pushing the ball into the paint to Howard. Perkins got enough help from Ibaka and others because there were hardly any situations while the game was still being taken seriously of a Rockets player creating a mismatch or a 2-on-1 situation which leads to an open shot. Howard, after an excellent 10 days, was limited to only 4-of-13 from the field, hitting only 1-of-7 from the line.
Looking so bad on defense is inexcusable, as the Thunder didn’t need to create turnovers in order to make it seem like they’re on a fast break on almost every possession. The return to the defense was lethargic, and the rotations around the perimeter were pathetic.
You’re playing basketball. You’re not logging tall timbers, believe me. Four games in five nights … next question. We couldn’t stop them. We couldn’t run. We had nothing.
In short? Kevin McHale didn’t think that fatigue was a good enough reason for the Rockets to look this bad, but there wasn’t really anything he could do as his players, among themselves, seemed to give up quite quickly on the chance of turning the tide somehow against an energetic and hungry, besides actually making an effort on defense.
Look to the future? The Rockets play only twice in the next 10 days, getting three consecutive home games against the Kings, Lakers and Knicks before embarking on a road trip. The last few games were a sign that things are sinking in for McHale, as Jeremy Lin has played wonderfully in fourth quarters, while James Harden hasn’t completely gotten over his stat padding or trying too much on his own, but he has played in a more mature and unselfish way during certain stretches.
In an 82-game season, losses like this are acceptable, and not every game is an opportunity to over analyze why Jeremy Lin should be doing this and James Harden should be doing that. However, if this proves to be something that blocked a very positive trend in the two players’ development as a functioning backcourt, than someone didn’t do their homework and picked up the lessons to be learned from such a crushing loss.