Joel Blank: Rockets need to find a sense of urgency fast

Chris Paul has played well since a disaster of a Game 1, but the Rockets need more. Bob Levey/Getty Images

It's time to wake up and smell the urgency Rockets fans.

Houston, it's time to face the reality that your team hasn't been playing good basketball. The Rockets have been on cruise control for the entire month of April and have yet to realize this is crunch time in the NBA. Ever since this team wrapped up the best record in the NBA, they have been lacking offensive efficiency, defensive tenacity and complete team chemistry. For a team that has been clicking on all cylinders for most of the regular season and only had lows from injuries to key players, this has become a huge issue. Something that was initially being brushed aside as a sidebar to resting players late in the year has now come full circle. It started with resting players that were healthy, and has continued to the point where it's not rust anymore, it's more of a relaxed attitude and lack of a sense of urgency that is a must when you get to the postseason.

Let's not forget that Game 1 of their opening round playoff series against Minnesota was tight for most of the game and Houston was lucky to come out with a victory. Sure they got a blowout win in game 2, but Game 3 was more of the same, sloppy, inconsistent play for Houston. They very easily could be down 2 games to 1,  instead of being up a game heading into Game 4.

When you look around the playoff landscape and you see the teams that are having success right now, it's obvious that chemistry and teamwork are of the utmost importance.  The Indiana Pacers play team basketball on both ends of the floor. Aside from Victor Oladipo, most casual basketball fans would be hard pressed to name another Pacers player. The New Orleans Pelicans are getting maximum effort and production from their star player Anthony Davis, but Jrue Holiday and the rest of the team have stepped up in a big way as they upset Portland in the opening round.  Teams like Utah, Philly, and Golden State are playing defense at a very high level and that leads to continuity and fast breaks on the offensive end. Houston needs to find that balance between success for their superstars and contributions from their role players, as well as getting back to the team defense that propelled them to the top of the NBA this season.

In Game 1, Chris Paul struggled and in Game 2 James Harden’s jumper was missing in action. In Game 3, Harden and Paul did their thing but didn’t get nearly enough help to compete with the energy and emotions of Minnesota. Aside from one big half from Clint Capela and one game from Gerald Green, the role players for the Rockets have been inconsistent and in some cases inexcusable.  Eric Gordon has taken last year's 6th man of the year award and turned it into being consistently inconsistent all regular season. In the playoffs and on this team, he is arguably the third most important offensive player on this roster and in this opening round series he has been anything but that.

It's time to step up as a team, and shape up from and execution standpoint. There is so much talent on this team that they can get by in this opening round series with inconsistent play, but as they get deeper into the playoffs they are setting themselves up for a big fall if they don't improve in all aspects of the game. They are lucky to have a one game lead in this opening round series and have plenty of time to right the ship, but in short the time is now and they need to find a sense of urgency before it's too late.

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James Harden returned to Houston Monday night and lost to the Rockets in double overtime. After the game, Harden complimented the maturation of the Rockets young players, and had some nice things to say about Houston.

Harden has a player option and can opt out after the season, which has some Rockets fans wondering if he would consider returning to Houston and taking over as the team's primary ball handler.

Plus, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has said he wouldn't rule out Harden returning at some point.

Be sure to watch the video above as we break down all the angles involving a potential fit for James Harden with Houston's young core of players, and much more.

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Catch The Bench with John and Lance weekdays from 7-10 AM on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

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