HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – After going into the All-Star break with so much to look forward to, the Rockets are suddenly looking like a team headed on a downward spiral.
The questions are can it be stopped and what will it take to put halt to the Rockets current slide?
They’ve won just once since returning from the All-Star break and currently riding a their longest losing streak of the season at five straight after falling on the road to Toronto, 116-98, on Wednesday night. Whereas they were sitting at the No.6 spot in the Western Conference playoff race two weeks ago they are barely hanging on in a tie with Minnesota for the eighth and final spot. And if the playoffs started today the Timberwolves would own the tie-breaker.
This sudden drop has first-year coach Kevin McHale searching for answers and trying to fix whatever is wrong.
“We have not been good since the All-Star break,” McHale said following Wednesday night’s loss. “We’ve really got to get ourselves together. We’re going through a really rough stretch right now. We’ve lost a couple tough games, came in here tonight and just got it handed to us.
“We’ve got to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be. We’ve got to go out there and just keep on battling hard. We’ve just got to find a way to have more defensive effort and more defensive energy.”
But how do they get back there? Where the Rockets seemed full of energy in the first half of the season, they just seem lethargic and step slow as was the case against the Raptors. They had a similar effort at Boston on Tuesday night where they blew a late lead and eventually lost to the Celtics 97-92 in overtime.
It seems to be a combination of the physical wear and tear of this season taking the toll on the team and also just a lack of energy. Leading scorer Kevin Martin has been up and down during this stretch, but that has also been the case pretty much across the board.
“I don’t think that it is just energy,” said forward Luis Scola.”Some games it is definitely energy, but some other games the energy was there like the Clippers or Boston and we still lost those. I think energy is one of the problems, I don’t think it is the only problem. If you don’t have it every game it is a big problem.
“The games that we have energy we are closer but we still have problems, so it is not the only one.”
Like Wednesday night’s loss, the Rockets played well in spurts against Boston. But they are not maintaining the intensity on the defensive end and without much in the way of sure-fire offense that means real trouble for the Rockets.
The Raptors, which is one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA, shot 59 percent from the field without their best offensive player on the floor and maintained a double-digit lead for much of the night. This is the same Toronto team the Rockets defeated 88-85 at home on Feb. 28 in their last win.
What’s most troubling is the Rockets seem unable to account for what’s going on right now.
“Honestly it’s embarrassing with what we’re playing for and what are goals are,” rookie forward Chandler Parsons said. “To come out here and just get blasted by this team is unacceptable. We’ve got to take ownership and man up and realize what we’re doing wrong because this is miserable for everybody.
“Losing five games in a row is terrible. We all hate the way we’re feeling right now so we’ve got to do whatever we can to change it to get back to winning ways and play the way we were playing.”
That can’t happen soon enough if the Rockets hope to turn things around. But what further complicates the current plight is the Rockets are in the midst of a grueling five-game road swing, which now includes back-to-back games against New Jersey and Cleveland on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, followed by a game at Western Conference No.1 seed Oklahoma City on Tuesday before returning to Toyota Center to face Charlotte on Wednesday.
If the Rockets don’t get things figured out before then they could be looking up at the playoffs.