Houston Rockets: Facing Early Season Adversity

By Michael Ma

Nov 9, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) and head coach Kevin McHale (right) review a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If there was ever a right time for the Houston Rockets to go through some struggles, that time would be now. Fortunately, there’s still 70-some games remaining to get all the pieces to fit together. Saturday night’s 107-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, that was propelled by an 18-0 L.A. run in the third quarter showed that the Rockets have hit an early season wall.

Coach Kevin McHale emphasized that nobody has seen the highest potential that his team can play:

“We haven’t really hit a stride as a team. We’re struggling. We struggle on and off but we’ll win some games. We just seem out of sync a lot when we’re playing and you can feel it. It feels like it’s a grind. There are times when it’s running smooth and we’re moving. It feels good. Right now, we’re just not in a good groove where we’re playing well.”

For the players, it’s about maintaining consistency among each other to get through the struggles at the moment. Dwight Howard spoke about playing with the same intensity for 4 quarters after Saturday’s loss:

“We just stopped playing the way we had played to get the lead and when you are playing against a team like the Clippers, they’ve been together a couple of years and they play well together.  We have to do that for four quarters and be consistent in what we do. We can’t do it for a quarter or two for us to be a championship team. That’s something we have to get better at. Right now, we’re facing a little adversity, losing two games. We can’t lose our head. We have to keep our cool. We’ve got to stay together and now is a great test for us. We have to stay focused. Every team goes through phases like this in the season.”

For Jeremy Lin and James Harden, both stressed needing improvement on the offensive side of the ball as a team rather than on defense. It was the lack of offensive execution in the 3rd quarter that helped blow the Rockets half-time lead and sparked an 18-0 Clippers run.

“I think we didn’t get back to moving the ball as much.” Lin said about the second-half letdown. “I think the ball got a little sticky.”

Harden’s simple solution was for the team to make open shots:

“The first half we did a good job, especially on the defensive end. In the second half it was just the opposite. We could not knock down shots. They (Clippers) got a lot of easy points because of our ability to not knock down shots.”

On the bright side, the Rockets are finished seeing an L.A. team, as all 3 losses have come to the Clippers and Lakers. They look to bounce back into the win column Monday night when the Toronto Raptors come to Toyota Center.