They missed shots early. Then they missed shots late. They missed and they missed, and then they missed some more. On Wednesday night in their 97-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Rockets shot a season-low 35 percent from the field and have now lost two games in a row for the first time this season.
“That’s two games in a row that we had no flow,” a somber Kevin McHale said afterwards.
You could see it early on. The Rockets shot less than 30 percent in the first quarter and right at that mark in the second. They trailed by 11 at the break, while putting up only 40 points. This is from a team that made over half it’s shots the previous nine games.
“They just came in and got real aggressive on defense and denied us everywhere,” Terrence Jones said. “It made it real difficult for us just to make plays and move the ball to our guards, and it really bothered us.”
It bothered them to the tune of 23 turnovers, which led to 25 Suns points. Dwight Howard and James Harden turned it over a handful of times apiece. Howard scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, but Harden was awful. He needed 17 shots to score 14 points, he missed all ten of his three-point tries, and only registered two assists.
“We couldn’t get the offense turned over,” McHale said. “We weren’t going side to side with the ball, way too much dribbling, and not enough ball movement, not enough body movement. That’s two bad games in a row.”
It just so happens the Rockets have been without Chandler Parsons the last two games due to back spasms, that is no excuse.
“I don’t care who’s not there, you just gotta go play, and we didn’t play the right way,” McHale said.
The Rockets didn’t lose this game because of a couple of injuries. There was another reason.
“They just played harder than us,” Dwight Howard said. “It had nothing to do with us missing shots or the offensive end, they just played hard.”
There were seven ties and five lead changes in the first quarter, but the Suns ended the first 12 minutes with a five point lead. They kept that lead the rest of the game. After trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, the Rockets cut the lead to a point, but Phoenix put the game away with a 13-0 run. The Suns, picked, as one of the worst teams in the NBA before the season started, is now 10-9. Despite their success thus far under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, this is a game the Rockets had no business losing.
“We can’t giveaway games like this, you know, it will come back and bite us later on in the season,” Howard said.
Later on in the season is the postseason. If the Rockets find themselves on the road in a game seven they can point to the last two games as the reason why. Until then, someone is going to need to repaint the rims and check the backboards for cracks. On Friday night, the Rockets will look to improve on their 13-7 record when they host Golden State.Follow @AdamSpolane
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