ROCK­ETS SUF­FER SE­COND STRAIGHT LOSS.

Houston Chronicle - - TEXANS EXTRA - JONATHAN FEIGEN jonathan.feigen@chron.com twit­ter.com/jonathan_feigen

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.

3-point­ers stray

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.”

Eric Chris­tian Smith / As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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