The Houston Rockets had won six consecutive games entering Wednesday, but there was something about the construction of their schedule that offered reason to concern.
The Rockets were set to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in consecutive road games, the second contest coming Wednesday ahead of a Thursday home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Houston opened the series in Oklahoma City with a 136-106 win Monday but fell to the Thunder 104-87 Wednesday following a ragged start in which the Rockets looked lethargic and disinterested.
Houston didn’t surrender everything gained with its winning streak. Still, after playing so well on both ends of the court in erasing what had been an uneven start to this season, the Rockets showed little of the verve that helped them climb from near the bottom of the West standings.
The Rockets return home to oppose the Grizzlies seeking not only a return to their winning ways but an effort reflecting their recent improved mentality. Memphis also will look to rebound after its seven-game winning streak ended Tuesday.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas said, “Instead of being like, ‘We’re good, we’re good,’ no, it’s not, ‘We’re good,’ we’ve got to be good. We’ve got to come with the correct approach.”
Houston was without guard John Wall in the second game against the Thunder and will be without guard Victor Oladipo against the Grizzlies, with both avoiding back-to-back games as part of injury-recovery programs. The absence of Wall had little to do with the Rockets’ performance against the Thunder. Instead, it was a lack of early thrust that proved debilitating.
The youthful Grizzlies will certainly provide a test for Houston, one that will require a commitment to solid two-way play from the opening tip. The Rockets are aware of that fact.
“We’ve just got to get going, we have to have a good start,” said Houston guard Eric Gordon, who scored a team-high 22 points in the Wednesday defeat. “We’ve got to knock down shots early, and I think that will get us in an early groove. But it has to be from the start.
“We know Memphis, it’s going to be tough. But we’ve got to go in and fire away early.”
The Grizzlies were rolling before Tuesday, when they took a 134-116 drubbing at Indiana. The Pacers shot 59.8 percent from the floor while connecting on 16 of 29 from 3-point range. It was the kind of shooting display that’s easy to shrug off as aberrant — Indiana recorded a season-high point total — especially with Memphis playing for the third time in four days.
Dillon Brooks put up a team-high 25 points for the Grizzles against the Pacers, one of six Memphis players to score in double figures.
After the streak-ending defeats, Memphis and Houston each have a shot at a restart.
“I think we’ve been doing a really good job of competing,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I thought our guys competed. Our guys are positive in the locker room ready to rebound and fill our cups up and get ready for Thursday.”
–Field Level Media