The Houston Rockets have plenty of issues on their own. They do not have a superstar (even though on a better team Lowry might be on his way there), they are continually undersized with Dalembert still averaging less than 20 minutes per game and their scoring can come and go on any given night. Most Rockets fans know this already, but the Rockets are facing another challenge. They have played three home games so far (fewest in the West) and seven road games (most in the West) this season.
The schedule is not the only problem with this team, but it certainly plays into their early struggles. The Rockets are 3-7 in their first 10 games. Those games include a back-to-back-to-back set, as well as games against the Lakers, Clippers, two against the Thunder, and two against the Spurs. When most of those games are on the road it is hard for any team to come out with a winning record.
With that being said, the schedule is not the only issue that the Rockets are facing. The Rockets continue to struggle with their interior defense. Yes, Jordan Hill can have a good game and block five shots like he did against the Bobcats, but he only had five blocks in the other nine games combined this year. Samuel Dalembert has been good playing inside, but he simply hasn’t played enough. The only true defensive presence on the team must play more than 19.5 minutes per night.
Kevin Martin is having the worst year of his career, albeit in a very small sample size. Martin is averaging 16.6 points per game (the fewest since the 05-06 season, which he only started half of the games he played in) which is partially due to the fact that Martin is getting to the free throw line half as frequently as he did last year. Martin’s FG percentage is also at its lowest mark since his rookie season.
For the Rockets to win, Martin can’t be the only one expected to score. Luis Scola has to give the team low post scoring, even if it isn’t a physical presence. However, Scola has four games this season where he has scored 12, 10, nine and four points. That simply is not enough for this team to win. Even if a youngster like Patrick Patterson steps up he can’t consistently be the scoring threat that the Rockets need him to be, and it’s not fair to ask that of him at this stage of his career.
Any team that has issues with several of its front tier players will struggle. They will struggle noticeably more if the coach is still trying to figure out his rotation and doesn’t have practice time to figure it out because the team is always on the road. That doesn’t even take into account the difficulty of simply playing on the road, which always has a noticeable impact on NBA teams. With nine of their 11 games remaining in the month of January at home, maybe this team can turn things around before they get too far out of control.