Rockets Crash Back to Earth with Losses to Division Rivals

Categories: Basketball, Sports

rockets-parsons-thunder.jpg
Photo by Amanda Cain
The look on the face of Chandler Parsons says it all.
Check out our slideshow from the Thunder game!

This was not the best weekend ever for Houston sports fans. The Texans...well, let's just leave them to their misery and inevitable playoff floundering and talk about the other team that went from boom to bust, the Houston Rockets. Of course, there weren't playoff implications on the line as of yet and the turnaround was something you could almost see coming, but it was, nevertheless, indicative of the season on the whole.

After five straight wins and seven wins in the last eight games, many by wide margins, the Rockets were reminded they aren't close to the best team in their own division, let alone the Western Conference, losing for the third time this month to the Spurs in a game that ended closer than it actually was, 122-116, and getting crushed by 30 at home against the Thunder.

The back-to-back away/home games were the last two in a brutal four-games-in-five-nights stretch, but it once again demonstrates that this team has a long way to go if it wants to compete with the class of the conference.

A quick look at the numbers tells the story. The Rockets are 16-14 thanks to a 9-5 December which could go to 10-5 tonight at home against the Atlanta Hawks. The team has feasted on the Eastern Conference going 11-2 against teams from the east, but only 5-12 in the conference, 2-5 in their own division. Additionally, while they have been decent on the road at 5-8, only one of those wins has come against at team in the Western Conference and they have played a predominantly home schedule in their first 30 games.

And lest we begin to think about the possibility of reaching the playoffs, the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers and Lakers are already the class of the conference. It appears the Lakers are finally getting their act together and the Nuggets, who have had a brutal schedule to open the season, will start playing in the mile high city a lot over the next two months and will most certainly be a playoff team. That leaves two spots remaining to be divvied up between Houston, Utah, Minnesota, Dallas and the surprising Golden State Warriors.

Dallas and Minnesota are struggling, Dallas with injuries and Minnesota with some internal strife. The Warriors will probably come back down to earth a bit and Utah, also the victim of a very tough early season schedule, should rebound as the season continues.

Frankly, I'm not even sure a playoff run is what this team wants or needs. At this point, this is not a contending team and will not be on this season, probably not even next year. When a team is in a playoff chase, it approaches games differently, dumping big minutes on key players and shortening its rotation. The Rockets need to open the roster a bit as the season continues to get time for guys like Donatas Montejunas, Terrence Jones and Greg Smith.

As exciting as a playoff chase is, it can also be terribly frustrating. Just as the Texans gagged away the number one seed and a first round bye, the Rockets found themselves in one of the worst falls in team history going from a no doubt playoff team to the lottery in the span of about two weeks last spring.

For now, I'm content to enjoy the ride and watch the youth develop. The playoffs can wait.

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