Happy New Year Red Nation! They say it’s better to leave the past behind, but we cannot move on without talking about last night’s embarrassing loss. The Houston Rockets ended 2015 with 114-110 loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, Thursday, at the Toyota Center.
For a year that started with championship aspirations the fact it ended on a three game losing streak only serves to highlight how full of disappointment it has been. And with the Rockets heading down I-10 West to take on their interstate rivals the San Antonio Spurs who’ve yet to lose at home, the start to 2016 does not look rosy for the Rockets.
3 Things We Saw
Same Old Story
At this point in the season, the Rockets are the most pathetic team in the Association. Last night, Houston provided the perfect example of how bad their defense is this year.
Yes, it is understood that the Rockets played against the best team in basketball, but there is no excuse for Houston to give up 48 points in the paint. the lack of defense in the paint is the main reason why the Warriors won this game.
With “Defensive Stoppers” like Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, and even Clint Capela on the roster, there is NO WAY any team should score almost 50 points in the paint on them. Most of their points came from backdoor layups and dunks from wing players.
However, their biggest problem against the Warriors was the lack of defense against Klay Thompson. With Steph Curry not in the lineup JB Bickerstaff should have known Thompson was going to have a big scoring night.
Although it was up to the players to defend Thompson on the court, I put his 38 point performance on Rockets’ coach JB Bickerstaff. After he watched Thompson score 17 points in the first half, Bickerstaff should have shifted the Rockets defensive focus on slowing Thompson down.
However just in the third alone, Bickerstaff’s crew allowed Thompson to score an additional 14 points! He never tried double-teaming Thompson, and almost every shot he took was wide open. (James Harden guarded him much of the game, but we all know not to expect a lockdown performance from Harden.)
Not only has their defense been their top concern, but turnovers as well. Although the Rockets only turned the ball over 15 times, the Warriors scored an additional 25 points off them. The Rockets have to learn how to hustle back on defense if they are having problems taking care of the ball.
No Longer Clutch City
According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of clutch is “to perform under pressure.”
Although this has been the Rockets nickname for over 20 years now, it’s time to change their name. Well, at least for a while.
For the third straight game, the Rockets found a way to lose in the final minutes. Yeah, they were down 90-82 heading into the final 12 minutes, but they cut Golden State’s lead to two points with less than five minutes remaining.
Then in a matter of a minute that got erased as the Rockets once again trailed by 10 prior to Ariza finally hitting two meaningless three point shots before the final buzzer.
This season, the Rockets have a strong inability to close out games. It seems like when the game is six points or less in the final minutes, Houston cracks under pressure. Perhaps it’s time for the Rockets to put away their Clutch City jerseys and focus on winning in fourth quarters, because it’s almost blasphemy at this point to wear those jerseys and allow continual fourth quarter collapses.
The Warriors are a dangerous team…. Even Without Curry
After their worst loss in three years to the Dallas Mavericks, the Warriors proved to everyone they are still a dangerous team. Even without league MVP Stephen Curry. Every member of the Warriors stepped their game up in Houston, and Klay Thompson’s 38 points on 59 percent shooting wasn’t the only bright spot.
Shaun Livingston shot 50 percent for 13 points, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala shot six of seven from the field for 20 points, and even second year guard Ian Clark torched the Rockets for 12 points in the victory.
However of all the Warriors performances, it was forward Draymond Green who made the biggest impact in Curry’s absence. Green posted his fifth triple-double of the season Thursday, scoring 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists as well as two blocks and two steals in the win. At 30-2 the Warriors by far are the best team in the league, and the longer Curry sits out with his leg injury, this will make Golden State’s player play even better. As of now, there is no team in the league who can stop them. At this point I have no problem claiming you should not be surprised if Golden State repeat as champion this June.
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.