What's worse than rock bottom?
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Thunder in Houston 112-107
Few things are darker in sports than a 21-point fourth quarter collapse after losing three straight prior to the game. Every game from this point forward becomes progressively more 'win-now'.
Chris Paul absolutely demolished the Rockets in the first half, scoring 27 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 shooting from three-point range. Houston couldn't manage to slow him down until they started trapping Paul more and more in the second half and forcing other Thunder players to beat them. What the Rockets weren't counting on was for it to actually happen. Danilo Gallinari absolutely torched the Rockets in the fourth quarter (12 points on 3 of 4 shooting from three-point range and 3 of 3 shooting from the free throw line).
The Rockets were rolling in this game when they went small with P.J. Tucker at center (41 minutes played). Clint Capela was also in foul trouble all night so it was the more convenient strategy. The problem was their defense absolutely cratered without Clint Capela in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter due to lack of rim protection. At that point, Oklahoma City took the lead and never looked back. It also didn't help that James Harden was off as he was tonight (1 of 17 from three-point range) and Houston missed a lot of quality looks from beyond the arc as a unit (9 of 45 from three-point range).
Russell Westbrook was fantastic, but the Rockets are at their best when James Harden is humming and tonight marked the continuation of the struggles he's had for six games now. Harden is shooting 34.8% from the field and 23.9% from three-point range in this span. It's also not a coincidence that the Rockets are 1-5 in these games.
Star of the game: As with a lot of Houston's losses these past two weeks, Russell Westbrook was clearly the best player on the player on the floor tonight and it wasn't particularly close. Westbrook logged 32 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals on 16 of 24 shooting from the field. Although they lost, when things started to get rocky for the Rockets in the fourth quarter, Westbrook was the steady hand for this team. It'll be interesting to see how long his streak of efficient scoring keeps up, but the Rockets would be getting blown out of the building if not for Westbrook.
Honorable mention: James Harden wasn't nearly efficient enough (9 of 29 from the field) or careful enough with the basketball (5 turnovers) to earn second place honors tonight. Danuel House, however, was excellent (on the whole) after struggling to find a rhythm these past couple weeks. House logged 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting from the field and 3 of 7 shooting from three-point range. He was really rough in the fourth quarter (-25), but on the whole, this is an encouraging sign for House.
Key moment: The Rockets went into the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead and lost the game by 5 - that tells you all you need to know about this game. Houston played three really good quarters of basketball and lost focus in the fourth. James Harden missed step-back three after step-back three (0 for 3 from three-point range) and Houston couldn't buy a stop if it was given to them for free (41 points allowed).
Up next: The Rockets play the Denver Nuggets at 7:00 p.m. in Houston on Wednesday.