3 reasons the Rockets imploded against the Thunder
By Shourya Kashyap
After having the longest win streak in the NBA, the Houston Rockets fell apart completely against the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose 104-87 in a forgetful night. The intensity and effort that the Rockets had been playing with during their win streak had disappeared and they looked lost for the majority of the game.
One game after setting a franchise record for made 3-pointers, the Rockets went stone cold from beyond the arc. The short-handed Thunder obliterated the Rockets with their speed and swarming defense that the Rockets simply had no answer for.
John Wall was out of Wednesday night’s game to rest for the Rockets’ back-to-back on Thursday night and his absence was felt all throughout the team. Things started off slow but the Rockets were within reach after ending the first quarter down 30-25.
Things continued to go downhill for the majority of the second quarter with the Rockets falling down by as many as 19 points before ending the quarter on a run to go into halftime down by 11. That run gave the team an inkling of hope and they started off the third quarter at a good pace and cut the Thunder lead to eight points but that was the closest they ever got.
Stephen Silas: "We didn't come with the correct approach. We didn't have the right energy right from the start of the game. We tried to just kind of ease our way into the game and they hit us hard right from the start.." pic.twitter.com/ArzNbsnc6x
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) February 4, 2021
The Thunder proceeded to take over the rest of the third quarter and ended up with a 23-point lead going into the fourth quarter. The Rockets were outscored 27-15 in the third quarter, which amounts to their least points in the third this season and second-lowest quarter overall.
3 Reasons the Houston Rockets got blown out against the Oklahoma City Thunder
The grit that the team had been showing throughout their win streak was nowhere to be seen and now the streak is over. There were moments that the Rockets showed heart but it was not enough and they lost a game they would much rather forget about.
Here are three observations from Wednesday night’s game that highlighted the issues this team has when they play without John Wall.
Next: Observation #3
Houston Rockets guard Victor Oladipo (7) Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
#3: Victor Oladipo should not be the primary ball-handler
With John Wall resting in this game, Eric Gordon was pushed into the starting point guard position. This led Rockets coach Stephen Silas to stagger the rotation minutes between Gordon and Victor Oladipo, which made Oladipo the primary ball-handler while Gordon rested.
This is a plan that did not work with the lineups Silas played, as Oladipo looked completely lost on both sides of the floor.
As a shooting guard, Oladipo hasn’t developed the court vision and IQ that point guards have and he was not able to run the offense like a true point guard can. He missed cutters repeatedly throughout the night and missed open shots.
As his confidence dropped, so did his intensity on the court and the Thunder saw this and attacked him. The majority of minutes that Oladipo played without Gordon, Silas had Sterling Brown in at point guard and he was playing the P.J. Tucker role of setting up in the corners.
In the future, when Wall is going to be rested for back-to-back games, Coach Silas will need to find another player to become a primary ball handler so that Oladipo can play his natural position and worry less about creating shots for others.
Next: Observation #2
#2: Christian Wood is human and can have bad games
In his career as a Houston Rocket, this was the first game that Christian Wood was held to single digits in points. Prior to Wednesday night, Wood’s previous low was 18 points, but he ended the game with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a plus/minus of -15.
Wood looked like a player lacking the confidence and was playing timid, as Al Horford was completely confusing him on both ends of the floor. Throughout the game, Wood was shut out.
It didn’t help that the team was struggling as a whole, but he was not able to get anything going for himself either. Coach Silas was also unable to draw up any schemes for Wood to be able to show his skill and seemed to completely lose faith in himself.
DeMarcus Cousins and the coaching staff were trying to get him going from the sidelines but it was just an off night for Wood and the Rockets as a whole.
This is Wood’s first game since the Harden trade where he failed to leave his own impact on the game. As arguably the Rockets’ best weapon, he will have to become more assertive and stronger in the paint.
Wood has all the skills to become a top player in the league and he had a rough game that may mess with his confidence. He will have to show his resilience and improve if the Rockets will have any chance to compete later in the season.
Next: Observation #1
#1: John Wall means the world to the Houston Rockets
There has been no question that Wall has been the leader of this Houston Rockets team since James Harden left. Due to his injury history, the Rockets have been taking a cautious approach with him and decided to rest him on the first of two consecutive games.
With the Thunder also short-handed, it should not have mattered to the degree it did in this game.
Rockets with Wall, without Harden: 6-0 https://t.co/7m5BGCYU10
— Disney Gary Clark (@Itamar1710) February 4, 2021
Eric Gordon replaced Wall in the lineup and was the only player that showed any ability to create on offense. The problem is, with Gordon starting the bench had no one to spark the team.
Combine this with the Rockets shooting a measly 12-of-46 from 3-point range (26.1 percent) and it isn’t hard to see why they lost. The team could have used Wall’s leadership to commit to the game defensively and continuing to fight.
Instead the team seemed to give up and play the majority of the game lifelessly.
Coach Silas made some questionable decisions as well, with rookie Mason Jones only getting 5 minutes and 25 seconds of playing time through the first 3 quarters. There may be good reason for the lack of minutes for Jones, but on a night where nothing was going right maybe shaking things up would have given the team a spark.
Eric Gordon: "It's a tough season. With all these games playing every other day, and back-to-backs. Can't let a game like this let down or take over your season. Everybody's gonna go through this. We just gotta step up and be even better tomorrow."
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) February 4, 2021
From awful shooting to a lack of effort to failed adjustments, this was a game where everything went wrong for the Rockets. The multitude of problems in the game make things seem awful for this team with a one-game perspective.
For now however, this game can be chalked up as an off night for the entire team and everyone can regroup and focus on the future.
This team has been built on grit and resilience all season long, and although Wednesday night was another hiccup along the road, the team will get a chance to show their resilience again in Thursday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.