Low energy game

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets get pummeled by Mavericks 137-123

"It's one of those games where you have to force yourselves to have the juice to start," said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "We were flat and they weren't. They punched us good and we fell all the way back and a lot of times when you do that, you run out of gas."

You can find reasons for why the Rockets didn't have it tonight - 2:30 p.m. start time, coming off an emotional game in Los Angeles a couple days prior, etc... However for a team that's trying to win a championship this season, all of these reasons would qualify as excuses. The Mavericks are a young, good team that's on the rise, but considering Houston's dry spell against contenders going into this game, this one was a must-win. The Rockets have now lost three games in a row and have only two wins against teams above a .500 winning percentage.

"We allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do (offensively) from the beginning of the game," said James Harden. "When you give a team like that comfort and the ability to do whatever they want, they gain confidence and that's what they did."

Luka Doncic continued his MVP-worthy play against the Rockets, tallying 41 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 blocked shot. P.J. Tucker did as good as job as you can against Doncic, but to no avail. Kristaps Porzingis also did a fantastic job at detering drives for Houston and defending at the rim. To go along with the defense, Porzingis logged 23 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 9 of 17 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range.

"Listen, Porzingis this whole week has been phenomenal," said Maverick head coach Rick Carlisle. "His all-around game, his defensive rim protection, rebounding outlet game, and then he's backing it up with a great offensive game."

All of the attention will be on the shooting disparity (Houston shot 10 of 44 from three-point range and Dallas shot 17 of 44) and even D'Antoni alluded to it, but there were a ton of things defensively Houston could have done to win this game.

"We got a lot of work to do, but I've seen flashes of it being good," said D'Antoni about Houston's defense. "Tonight wasn't one of them. It's just one of those things where we got a little skid going and we have to right the ship and get back."

Star of the game: Despite the 3-game winning streak, Clint Capela continued on with his slate of awesome stat-lines. Capela logged 21 points and 22 rebounds on 10 of 16 shooting. A big reason for Houston's run were Capela's follow-up dunks off of Russell Westbrook missed layups in transition.

Honorable mention: P.J. Tucker was particularly great defensively to end the third quarter and to start the fourth quarter. Tucker's physical defense on the low-block is partially the reason Houston was able to come back to make it a 5-point game in the fourth quarter. Tucker tallied 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 7 of 10 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range.

Key moment: Houston's first quarter put them in a hole that felt insurmountable. They allowed 45 points and only countered with 29. They made mini-runs sporadically throughout the game, but the Rockets were never able to fully recover after that.

"Our defensive was not where it needed it to be from the beginning of the game," said P.J. Tucker. "We knew they were one of the best first half teams in the league. We had to assert ourselves early and we didn't."

Up next: The Rockets continue their homestand and play the Miami Heat at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

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The NBA is doing it right with their restart inside the Orlando Bubble at the Disney resort. A centralized location for the 22 teams picked to finish out the regular season and vie for the playoffs. A nice twist of a play-in for the eighth and final spot in each conference adds some intrigue. With teams not having to travel as extensively as they would under normal circumstances, this could have a positive effect on players and teams by them being more rested between games.

When I say it could benefit players and teams, I'm specifically talking about the Rockets. Head coach Mike D'Antoni typically employs a tight rotation when it comes playoff time. He's notorious for only playing a strict seven or eight man rotation. This usually overworks his starters who play close to 40 minutes per game or more. Meanwhile, guys that have gotten a decent amount of minutes are relegated to being cheerleaders with jerseys on. Given the current conditions, is small-ball sustainable in the bubble?

Yes: the extra rest will help

As previously stated, I believe the rest will help. James Harden and Russell Westbrook aren't spring chickens. Neither is P.J. Tucker or Eric Gordon. All four of these guys are keys to the Rockets being able to make a run. Given the lack of travel allowing for extra rest, I think the older guys who've played significant minutes and have overcome injuries will be better rested. Better rest and time to heal should give them a boost.

No: can't win being out-rebounded

In their impressive win over the East leading Bucks in their second game of the restart, the Rockets were out-rebounded by 29! Now the possession gap was tightened via the 23 turnovers they got from the Bucks, including several down the stretch. But you can't expect to be consistently out-rebounded and win.The last NBA champion to be out-rebounded by their opponents was the '12-'13 Miami Heat team who were loaded. This team isn't suprememly talented like that team was so I doubt they can overcome shortcomings on talent alone.

Yes: threes are more than twos

Three is greater than two. That is a fact that can't be debated. The fact that the Rockets shoot more threes than any team in the league isn't debatable either. Their shooting percentage on those threes (34.9%) ranks them 22nd in the league. But when you shoot roughly 45 a game and make about 16 of them yielding 48 points off threes, it makes the risk worth the reward. Not to mention long distance shots often give way to long rebounds which can help a team that doesn't play a regular player taller than 6'9.

No: defense is too inconsistent

The inconsistency at which this Rockets team plays defense could be their downfall. The way they played down the stretch against the Bucks is the way you'd hope they play all game. They stepped up when it counted in that game, but don't play that way consistently enough to be considered a real threat. When you score 118.7 a game, but give up 114.9 a game, you will always be in close games. Add the rebounding desparity, and that's a recipe for too many close games which they could end up losing if they aren't shooting well. When you can't get stops, you can't win. It's that simple.

Overall, this team has a shot to do sometihng special, but will need lots of things to go right for them. Do I think they have a shot at a title? Yes. Do I think the road will be tough? Yes. All it takes is 16 wins once the playoffs start. Being the best team in a best of seven series four times in a row is more daunting than it sounds. The confines of the NBA bubble make it a little more advantageous to the Rockets' style of play. But will their deficiencies impede their progress? That remains to be seen. Until then, let's enjoy the ride.

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