HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The Houston Rockets are a confusing team. At times they seem like they might be the deepest team in the NBA and at other times they can’t find anyone to count on. In the first half of many games they look dominant, but then in the third quarter of the same game they look completely lost.
Sometimes Kevin Martin looks like one of the best shooters in the game and sometimes he heaves up airballs.
Kevin Martin, like many jump shooters, can be hot or he can be cold. Right now he is beyond ice cold. He can’t even make it onto the floor for the Rockets right now. Against the Phoenix Suns, Martin played for 13 minutes and made one of two shots from the floor.
There is no clear reason why Martin isn’t playing. He is obviously struggling with 16 points in the last four games. Martin has had cold streaks before, but he typically keeps on playing and shoots himself out of any slump that he is in.
Maybe this is Kevin McHale sending a message to Martin and the rest of the team. Maybe McHale isn’t getting enough out of Martin in the rest of his game. Martin has six rebounds, 12 assists and seven turnovers in the last four games, in which he has played 81 minutes. If Martin were to play 40 minutes (a heavy night, but not unreasonable) that would be eight points, three rebounds, six assists and three turnovers.
That’s not good enough, but is it bad enough to completely take him off of the court?
Clearly when the rest of the team is playing as well as they are right now, McHale feels comfortable sitting Martin. Against the Suns, there were seven players that scored in double digits. Two of those players were starters; the other five came off of the bench.
That is quality depth, and the team feels even deeper because McHale is willing to be creative with his lineups. In crunch time against the Suns, McHale played Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, his two point guards, in order to increase ball movement and handle the pressure that the Suns were putting on the Rockets.
It is hard to understand why the Rockets struggle as much as they have recently in the third quarter, especially when they have dominated in the first half. There are a ton of possible answers, but few that have any substance behind them.
There is clearly enough talent in each of those games to take a large first-half lead so the talent level isn’t the issue. McHale has the team prepared coming into the game and it is hard to believe that the opposing coach is consistently making adjustments that McHale can’t handle.
The team’s third-quarter struggles could be simply a fluke. Sometimes in sports things happen and not only don’t need an explanation but don’t have one. If through the course of a season the Rockets are more successful the first half of the game rather than the third quarter; if Kevin Martin can get back on the floor and shoot like he is capable; if the Rockets bench continues to provide quality depth at every position, the Rockets will have a very good season.
Those ifs are why we watch sports and the Rockets are an extremely interesting team to watch right now because you can’t be sure what you are going to get.
Regardless of how it has happened, the Rockets are the number four seed in the West almost halfway through the season.