The Houston Rockets came out blazing hot (pun intended) in Portland. They dropped a season-high 60 points in the first half and looked as though they were going to come up with a rare road victory against a winning team.
Then David Stern screwed the team again and forced them to go to halftime. Alright, maybe Stern doesn’t deserve the blame for that, but it has been a real problem for the Rockets this season. The Rockets have struggled coming out in the third quarter and maintaining their momentum.
The Spurs game comes to mind. The Rockets had dominated the first half of the game but lost the third quarter by 11 points, then lost control of the game and were blown out in the four quarter. The real problem is that is not the only time the Rockets have lost a game in the second half. In fact, three of their four losses since their seven game win streak have followed this pattern.
In addition to the San Antonio game, the Rockets lost home games to Minnesota by giving up 42 points in the third quarter and Milwaukee by losing the third quarter 30-19. It is hard to determine why it is that the team is struggling with the third quarter, but there are a few options.
It could be something in the way that McHale handles halftime. It could be that other coaches are out-adjusting McHale. Or it could be that the Rockets are a young team that doesn’t have a solid identity to rely on.
Regardless of what the problem is, the important thing for this game is that the Rockets were able to take a punch (in the form of giving up a 19 point lead) and keep fighting. The Rockets deserve equal parts blame for giving up an enormous second half lead and credit for scrapping and hustling to make sure that they didn’t lose the game.
The hero of the game wasn’t who you would expect. It wasn’t Lowry, Martin or Scola. It was the bench as a whole. In fact, from the time the Blazers tied the game there wasn’t a starter to score a single point. The team was lead by Dragic, who scored all 10 of his points in the final 10 minutes of the game. He was assisted by Patterson, Lee and Budinger, who all played solid down the stretch.
This is a game where having young legs and a deep bench came in to win the game for the Rockets. They had played four games in six days and suffered a disastrous end to the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter on the road in a packed and boisterous house.
Many teams would have folded up and quit. Many teams would have simply accepted their fate and prepared themselves for another road game the next night. The Rockets deserve credit for scratching and fighting through their struggles and coming up on the winning end.