Rockets Marking Time, Not Progress

VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew break down Dwight Howard’s play vs. OKC

HOUSTON — Cross that off their bucket lists.

Now the Rockets know what it’s like to step into an empty elevator shaft. Or out of a moving jet. Or off the roof of a tall building.

The last time anything went over an edge this fast, it was an anvil that wound up landing on the head of Wile E. Coyote.

The rootin’ tootin’, fastest-shootin’ bunch in the NBA filled up the hoop for a season-high 73 points in the first half Wednesday night against the Thunder. Then scored 19 in the second half.

For the anomaly inclined, it was the largest point disparity (54) between halves in league history.

Ordinarily to see such a rapid reversal from feast to famine, one has to go out for double cheeseburgers with one of those bony supermodels.

In the end, what we have is a clear line of demarcation between an honest-to-goodness Western Conference title contender and a team that just likes to flex in front of the mirror.

After a middling 5-5 record since Russell Westbrook underwent another surgery on Dec. 27 — including five losses in the span of eight games and three in their last four — the Thunder may have been tempted to write another one off after Houston’s dozen first-half 3-pointers.

Instead, coach Scott Brooks took them to the movies at halftime, showing video replays of the horror show defense that led to almost every single one of those 3-pointers.

Some were from gaps in the defense. Some were the result of switches. Some were just lazy. But no matter what, the Thunder decided they’d had enough.

“Hell yeah, it was a statement win,” crowed Westbrook above the through that had gathered around Kevin Durant after his 36-point game.

The kind that said even without one of the twin engines to their offense, Thunder have the know-how, the wherewithal and the grit not to simply throw up their hands and write another one off as a bad night.

“We just stuck with it,” Durant said.

It was also a statement about the Rockets in the 41st game of a season that hasn’t seen much difference or overall improvement from the 11th, 21st or 31st.

When the Rockets are raining 3-pointers and using the gaps created to also attack the basket, as they did in the first half, they are virtually unbeatable. But when the shots stop falling —  as they did in the second half — the Rockets can be unwatchable and don’t seem like a bunch that could navigate the marathon of a deep postseason run. Or even the first round of the playoffs.

It’s an act they’ve got memorized like the lines of a long-running Broadway play.

Coach Kevin McHale shakes his head and talks about the ball “sticking” in the offense and bemoaning the fact his team can’t play with consistent energy all game.

James Harden, the supposed closer who did not score a point in the second half, churlishly challenges the notion that anything at all went wrong except a couple of shots not falling.

Dwight Howard, after five-point second half, sits in front of his locker mumbling responses to questions, as if the whispering lets the outside world know that, by gosh, he’s taking this one seriously. That’s after another night of Howard reverting to form as the frustrated, stifled big man who can’t score and falls back into pushing, shoving and getting slapped with double technical fouls.

“We’ve got to play the right way if we want to win,” Howard said. “Once we figure it out, we’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t even a week ago when the Rockets blew a 25-point lead to the lowly Wizards, but had enough to fight back and win. The difference, of course, is that the thoroughly mediocre Wizards of the laughably horrid Eastern Conference are not in the same class as the Westbrook-less Thunder.

So while they have shown a propensity for often making a bunch of shots, the Rockets have not shown an inclination or an ability yet to reach for the next level of concentration and execution.

Whose fault is that? Howard’s? Harden’s? McHale’s?

“We’re good, Harden said. “We missed layups, a couple of errant turnovers that we could have converted in transition,” said Harden. “Just small things.”

Like that first step off the rooftop.

VIDEO: Is Dwight Howard still a great player in the NBA?


  1. gian carlo says:

    Truth to the matter is they need a point guard who can dehorn those two clowns,Howard and Harden and most specially earn the respects of those three stooges of coaching staff,mchale,sampson and bickerstaf. The only respectable on that line up of coaches is Chris Finch.
    I do not belittle the efficiency of Jeremy Lin as a point guard, but that Houston Rockets as a team doesn’t respect Lin, they don’t even know the existence of Jeremy Lin in this team. From his teammates to coahes, Howard,Parson,and Harden to top a few. It’s only Jones and Asik who appreciates Lin as their point guard.
    Houston should get Rondo and trade Asik and Lin in return, Rondo can hold his own with those clowns and and those coaching stooges, unlike Lin who doesn’t defend himself and let his supporter to retaliate in his behalf.
    Lin, unsolicited advise, go back to Harvard and study again on how to grow some backbone, for you to handle this kind of bullying from Houston.
    Your just waisting your talent in that team.
    You got to bail out on those idiots who doesn’t recognize your contribution to that Red Nation.

  2. jake s. says:

    I used to be angry at Houston because of the OKC beef, but now i just feel sorry for Houston.

  3. Bu says:

    The interview with DH clearly showed how much heart he has in the game. Yes, it’s a personality thing so with his, he is NOT suitable as a leader nor a franchise player that ppl think he is. He’s a good complimentary player & will function well in the right system (like his past Orlando team).

    Even Kenny Smith was questioning the high pick N roll he was doing. No doubt, the coach has to answer that. McHale is never a proven coach & X’s & O’s.He also has to deal with this diversity of personality and top 2 players don’t really care about championships, and 1 of them, Harden is a ball hog & a huge defensive liability. Presti’s decision to move him was right.

    I kind of feel bad for Lin, as I’m sure he’ll really blossom to a really good PG if he’s with another team. Now he’s trapped behind this ball hog.

  4. okc2014 says:

    Kevin McFail? Harden tends to “Kobe” the ball? Dwight is a cancer wherever he goes? You guys are so mean! I have faith in the Rockets. Faith that they will make 4th seed. LOL.

  5. Amal says:

    I think Dwight needs to start thinking how to be a complete dominant leader or he gone remain just another ordinary good player
    And Hardin’s defence is just terrible.

  6. OKC says:

    Mmmmm I love to see Fran suffer. So much for your high hopes.

  7. Alex says:

    -Houston is terrible defensively. It’s not even about consistency, their mindset (whether it be McHale’s fault or not) is that they are fine on that end. They are not fine, period.
    -Harden is delusional, inconsistent on offense, and nearly non-existant on defense. I’m surprised he ever played for OKC with the complete polar opposite mindset he has from theirs.
    -Dwight needs more touches. However, it has to be a balance of inside-out. Neither Howard nor Harden (or even both together) are good enough to carry a team offensively.
    -Ball needs to move more. Harden tends to Kobe the ball, Howard looks lost most of the time having nothing to do, everyone else gets theirs here and there mostly in transition. Work on the half court offense at least if you’re not going to practice defense.

  8. A few thoughts says:

    A few problems with the Rockets at the moment from what I’ve seen of them:-
    They’re not a strong defensive team.
    They’re either driving to the hoop or shoot three-pointers – there’s nothing in between and when these aren’t working they lack alternatives.
    There’s not enough ball movement.
    Harden is used as the main ball handler too often and he’s not a playmaker.
    Dwight Howard needs to be more dominant. Another problem with him is people teach him new skills but he’s seems unable to take them in sometimes.

  9. Ryan says:

    In a nut shell the Rockets need to learn and recognize how to play collectively on both ends of the court! In the playoffs the games are generaaly played in a half court set offense. A powerful offense will win you some games but defense wins playoffs and championships! Untill the Rockets realize this concept collectively they will continue to have ups and downs! As for the poor execution on the offensive end they need to have a balanced attack or game plan tailored to Dwight Howard’s strengths! When the Rockets become a jump shooting team they live and die by the three point shot! They then begin to stop being aggressive which leads to no penetration to the rim to create space. Therefore the ball becomes stagnant which leads to no ball movement which results in forced shots and individuals dribbling the ball. As for the sluggish starts,blown leads,and under performing against teams under 500. that is soley on coach Kevin McHale! Die Hard Fan Go Rockets!

  10. MJ23 says:

    McHale needs to go!

  11. Finally says:

    Finally, someone raises questions about McHale, the coach, and not just the players. It’s about time!

  12. dustydreamnz says:

    I think apart from their consistency the fact they are a newish team has troubled them. They’re a team of individuals rather than combinations apart from Chandler Parsons who is a team player. They look like they need another year or two together.

  13. Edgars says:

    I am sure Rockets and Harden will pick up defensive slack in playoffs. They still got time to improve on both sides of the floor, they have huge potential and there has been glimpses of greatness in their game.
    Just need to keep working on it. Their effort is questionable at times, especially on defense (Harden) and offense (Howard) but that could be because of schedule- they just run out of gas sometimes.

  14. Pointless sensationalism, this is the type of article that gets put out for the sake of posting an article, rather than for having anything interesting to say.

  15. LAKERS says:

    Dwight Howard is a cancer to any team he is on. The Rockets or any other team he plays for will never win a championship with Dwight as their starting center. Truth be told, the Rockerts would probably be better off without Dwight.

  16. Whozdat84 says:

    Dwight is a good player, but his childish ways holds him back. You have to have a killer mentality. Kobe has that killer instinct. If he had that mentality he would be unstoppable. He’s such a disappointment. He’s almost turning into a bust far as his career goes. It’s sad to see another promising player just throw his career away. Get serious and play some ball. I used to think he was the best center in the league but it’s hard to even place him among the top 3. He dont deserve it and dont play like he want it. I wouldnt want Dwight on my team.

  17. Jonny Bravo says:

    They should let D-MO to play more. That kid can do some damage for their opponents.

  18. Bill says:

    From my perspective, the Rockets have two obvious problems that will keep them from going very far in the playoffs:

    1. They are a poor defensive team. Sometimes they are pitiful
    2. They don’t have a point guard that can run the offense in a way to get people easy shots. They are pretty much going one on one when they are in the half court which is not a great recipe in the long term.

    They have enough talent, and there are enough bad teams this year, to win a lot of games and that will allow them to fool themselves that they are better than they are (hence Hardin’s comments last night).

    Sam Presti continues to get criticized for letting Hardin get away but one wonders if he just couldn’t see a future that including titles with a 2 guard who was a talented scorer but a defensive liability. Just sayin’.

    • Larry says:

      I don’t agree with you with the 2nd point. The Rox does have a solid point guard; however, I don’t know what the reason is that they let Harden control and move the ball most of the time. So, here is the problem. When a SG moves the ball the most, the game is not fun, and meanwhile the change of losing the game increases. I am not saying that Jeremy Lin would have had a change to turn this game over, but the last three games before this one, the Rox moved the ball really good when JLin played as a real PG.

  19. Eddie says:

    I just want to point out a couple of things. Both times the Rockets have played OKC this season it has been on the end of a 4 game in 5 night run. OKC played 4 games in 7 nights the first meeting and 4 games in 8 nights this time neither time were on back to back nights. Also, the Rockets have played 41 games while OKC has played 39. The Rockets simply ran out of gas in the second half against a good team. Go Rockets!!!!

    • jake s. says:

      You omitted the fact that the second highest scoring, defensive minded, max contract player for OKC sat out through BOTH of those contests. You cannot seriously proclaim that all things even (health and rest) that the Rockets will come out on top.

  20. johnny dawson says:

    Dwight Howard is a loser. Lazy, overpaid, doesn’t give a damn.