Bucks truck Rockets as abysmal shooting leaves team looking for answers

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Heading into the game, the matchup between the Bucks and Rockets was being hyped-up as a clash between the top-two MVP candidates; what occurred instead was the ultimate make-or-miss game. The Bucks made their shots, Houston did not.

Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Iman Shumpert, Austin Rivers and Danuel House Jr. combined for 29 points on 10/38 shooting for the Rockets.

Compare this with Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton whom combined for 50 points on 18/32 shooting for the Bucks.

Milwaukee did a spectacular job at taking away James Harden‘s three-point shot and packing the paint which made him settle for floaters and forced someone else from Houston to make shots; which they did not.

Even though the shooting for the Rockets’ role players was especially terrible on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, this inconsistency has been a rather constant occurrence for the Rockets.

Ever since Danuel House Jr. rejoined the team and played again against Phoenix, Houston’s rotations have been all over the place.

An example of this inconsistency has been with Austin Rivers who has “rested” for two games since House’s return. The same can be said about Kenneth Faried, who has missed three games battling nagging minor injuries, and Gerald Green who averaged around 18 minutes a game before House’s return and after it has dropped to around 12 minutes a game (Green is now expected to be out at least one week with a strained abductor).

Both Austin Rivers and Gerald Green have had their offensive production decrease. In the month of February Rivers averaged 9.2 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting, and Green averaged 12.6 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting.

In the month of March, Rivers’s average decreased to 5.6 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting, and Green’s numbers have fallen to 7.5 on 32.5 percent shooting from the floor.

While the Rockets have said that the rotations vary depending on the matchup and usually having so many players that are viable options to play is a good problem for Mike D’Antoni to have, not being able to have a consistent nine or eight-man rotation as D’Antoni often does in the playoffs could be a leading factor into why players like Austin Rivers and Gerald Green have seen their offensive games take a massive slump.

One player who for the most part has had his rotation role stable since House’s return has been Iman Shumpert.

The reason for Shumpert having a relatively consistent rotation slot is because of his defensive ability.

A big reason for Houston putting a huge emphasis on defensive players is because of Houston’s need to reduce P.J. Tucker’s load in defending the other team’s best players.

Tucker was left open on multiple occasions for corner threes and Tucker uncharacteristically air-balled two in a row and missed several more.

The Rockets’ need for Tucker on the defensive end the entire season has visually taken its toll on Tucker.

Against Milwaukee, Houston had Tucker shadow Giannis Antetoukounpo for much of the night, and Tucker even had to match the Greek Freak’s minutes. Playing superstar minutes for a player who gives it his all on every possession takes an enormous toll; doing it for an entire season leaves Tucker exhausted.

Iman Shumpert was supposed to help alleviate Tucker’s load, but he has been very inconsistent on offense that it has not helped reduce Tucker’s minutes because Tucker’s versatility is still more valuable to the team considering his offensive production is not much more than that of the other role players.

Although the offensive production has not been there, the defensive production certainly has as the Rockets have had the third-best defense in the league since the All-Star Break, and the additions of House and Shumpert to go along with Tucker have been a big part of it.

As for Eric Gordon, who shot 0/7 from the field against the Bucks, he was also battling through an injury he suffered in New Orleans which must have affected him drastically, but Gordon’s entire season has also been very inconsistent as he has become less reliable this season.

The Rockets have seven games left in the regular season to not only find a groove offensively but find a consistent lineup that can be trusted when the playoffs arrive.

Houston is currently in fourth place due to Portland owning the tie-breaker. The Rockets have very little room for error if they want to regain third place.

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The biggest goal for Houston in these final two weeks is to hit their stride and be at their best for the playoffs. The performance against the Bucks highlights that the Rockets still have ways to go to find that stride.