Luis Scola and the Houston Rockets have lost a complete grasp on things within what has been a dynamically horrible collapse.
Five losses in a row. Six defeats in their last 10 games. There’s no telling who or what the Houston Rockets are these days, but we do know this: any hopes of a playoff spot is on life support, if not already dead in the water. And they have no one to blame but themselves.
Just a few weeks ago, the Rockets were sitting 6th in the West. Rockets fans were talking about possibly upsetting the Thunder or Spurs in the first round, and who could blame them? Houston posted impressive wins in Chicago and L.A., and even managed to cause a blip on the national radar, with analysts praising the Rockets as a darkhorse in the West. Their offense was clicking on all levels, and the defense – though still well below par – was at least showing signs of progress. Things were undoubtedly headed in the right direction.
But with their 117-110 loss to Dallas on Wednesday, in which they surrendered a ghastly 39 points in the fourth quarter, Houston now sits tied with Phoenix for 9th in the West, a half-game behind Utah for 8th, with four games left.
Even after rectifying their shooting woes against the Mavs, the Rockets’ defense – their Achilles’ Heel all season – proved fatal, allowing Dirk Nowitzki to simply take over at will. Nowitzki scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half, willing the Mavs to their seventh straight win over Houston, which fell in spite of hitting half of its shots, including 42.9% (12-for-28) from 3-point range.
Through their current five-game losing streak, the spunky Rockets have displayed a remarkable letdown in confidence, tightening up late in games and panicking once opponents even get the slimmest of leads. How does a team that beat the Bulls and Lakers on their home floor lose to the Jazz and Suns at home? Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s how this season has gone, and perhaps we should have seen it coming.
At this point, it’s tough to have an optimistic outlook. If there was a game that could have eased fans’ concerns, it would have been a win on Wednesday, on the road, against a hated rival, with their playoff lives desperately hanging in the balance. It was the definition of a statement game; one in which the Rockets could have earned back their swagger once and for all. It didn’t happen, and we can no longer look at stats, numbers or trends to try and find reasoning behind their dramatic collapse. The Rockets have simply folded. They have been thoroughly outplayed and outcoached when it has mattered the most. The players have reacted instead of acted, and a coach like Kevin McHale – boasting all the playoff and championship experience in the world – has done nothing to help his team adjust to pressure and expectation. From top to bottom, the Rockets have shown their true colors at a great time of need, and it’s been nothing short of discouraging.