ROCKETS SUFFER SECOND STRAIGHT LOSS.
James Harden tried to explain the Rockets blowing a 16-point lead, but he just kept coming back to the same two words, “missed shots.”
He considered the other issues, from the Memphis Grizzlies’ power inside to their strong traps and switches on him. But he knew as much as all that might have been true, the Rockets’ 110-105 loss to the Grizzlies on Friday night at Toyota Center was about the most obvious issue Harden cited first, last and often in between.
“We just missed shots, that’s all,” Harden said. “We missed shots. We make those shots … (and it is) a different ballgame. We didn’t make shots; simple as that.”
It rarely is that simple. Teams often dismiss losses that way, ignoring they were unable to sink the shots opposing teams want them to take for a reason.
But the Rockets missed the shots that they want, the shots they have made all season while never before losing consecutive games.
A contest after their nine-game winning streak and their perfect 9-0 record in the second half of back-to-backs were gone, the Rockets’ run of nine consecutive wins in the game following a loss was over, too.
The Rockets were just 3-of-24 on 3-pointers in the second half when they made just 26.1 percent of their shots overall and the Grizzlies went from a 15-point deficit to a sevenpoint lead.
Grizzlies step up
The Rockets had the other familiar problems against Memphis. They often had to send doubleteam help against Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph, freeing Tony Allen to cut to the rim on his way to a season-high 22 points.
The Grizzlies scored 56 points in the paint, keeping the Rockets in the half court where the Memphis defense locked in.
Yet, the Rockets were in position to overcome all that, as they had in the
first half, had they been able to connect on even a handful of their open shots.
“If we don’t make shots, the matchup is in their favor,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If we make shots, they have a problem.
“I thought we got good looks. It was one of those nights. We were 10-of41 (on 3s). There were a couple that we rushed, rushed because of the shot clock, but not rushed because someone was guarding.”
The Rockets had been 29-3 in games in which they held double-digit leads and led by as many as 16 points in Friday’s first half. But for more than six minutes to start the third quarter, the only attempts the Rockets could make were a Trevor Ariza tip of a missed shot and an alley-oop Harden sent to Montrezl Harrell.
“We had three or four or five straight stops, and I thought we had five good looks,” D’Antoni said. “Couple of 3s, couple of this, couple of that. And instead of being up 18 or 20 … it turned from there.”
The Rockets stayed in the game late when they twice got the ball to Nene cutting to the rim and the Grizzlies committed turnovers on three of four possessions.
Randolph, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half in a turnaround as extreme as the Rockets’ reversal, put in a runner.
The Rockets returned to the 3-point line.
The Rockets’ last chance ended when, trailing by four heading into the final minute, Grizzlies 110, Rockets 105 Ariza and Ryan Anderson missed open looks, falling to 2-of-14 from the 3-point line between them.
Moments later former Rockets guard Troy Daniels nailed a 3-pointer to ice the win and demonstrate the difference between the teams in the second half.
‘This is a tough spot’
“All the shots we took were the shots we normally make,” Rockets guard Pat Beverley said. “We didn’t tonight.”
Still, just as D’Antoni has been determined to boost confidence enough for the Rockets to launch so many 3s, he saw a bright side on the night they missed them.
“You know what, I didn’t think we were going to go all year without any kind of problems or any kind of tough spots,” D’Antoni said. “This is a tough spot.
“So OK. There’s two halves (of the season), right?
“Forty-one games in the first half, we’re 31-10 and we started off losing the first game. We started the second half losing the first game, so all we got to do is repeat what we did and we’ll be fine.”
Grizzlies forward Tony Allen, right, dunks for two of his 22 points as Rockets forward Trevor Ariza looks on during the second half Friday night.