Rockets guard James Harden was curt and, given the circumstances, that was to be expected.
Houston dropped its fourth consecutive game on Sunday, its second in succession in blowout fashion at home, falling to the Orlando Magic 126-106. The Rockets trailed by as many as 32 points and tumbled into a double-digit, first-half hole for a fifth consecutive game.
Most everything that could go wrong has for the Rockets during their skid, one that dropped them behind the Oklahoma City Thunder into sixth in the Western Conference standings. Before this collapse began, the Rockets were mounting a push for second place and, with the Minnesota Timberwolves paying a visit on Tuesday, Houston needs to find its way quickly.
“Keep fighting, keep pushing,” Harden said when asked how the Rockets could reverse course. “That’s all you can do at this point. Keep your head up.
“We’re not really worried, it’s just frustrating. It just seems like it’s all gone bad.”
After missing 23 of 32 3-pointers against the Magic, the Rockets are shooting just 29.1 percent from long range during their losing skid. They have committed an average of 15 turnovers during this stretch, including a whopping 38 while suffering losses in back-to-back games to Charlotte and Orlando.
Meanwhile, the Rockets have allowed a plus-36 rebounding margin to their opponents and surrendered a robust 48.8 percent shooting from the floor over the last four losses. Houston appeared to be rolling following its comeback overtime victory at Boston on Feb. 29. When the Rockets pushed into New York to play the Knicks two nights later, that momentum, and their confidence, were nowhere to be found.
“It’s funny: Just eight days ago we were rolling, and then all of a sudden the bottom fell out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re searching a little bit for answers, and we’ll find them.
“I think we’re second-guessing ourselves a lot of times. No swagger. We’re passing up 3s. It’s this today, it’s that tomorrow. To me, it’s a spirit, it’s toughness, it’s a swagger. It’s no hesitating. It’s a combination of things that really started from a lack of effort in New York. And then we went up (against) a good team (in the Clippers) and now we’re questioning everything.”
The Rockets were hoping to take advantage of this soft spot in their schedule, but with three ugly losses against sub-.500 teams, the Timberwolves won’t present any sort of guarantee.
Minnesota has dropped 7 of 10 games since the All-Star break, including a 120-107 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. The game in Houston will mark the start of a six-game road trip for the Timberwolves with three games against current playoff teams and two more against postseason hopefuls.
Minnesota continues to be without two-time All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist), although the Timberwolves have been better without Towns (9-19) than with him (10-25).
Neither record is appealing, and for Minnesota, fighting through the losses remains a challenge.
“We can’t get too low,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell said. “We know we’re a young team. We’re going to do young things at times. We can’t dwell on them and beat each other up, beat ourselves up about it. We’ve got to just kind of let it go.”
–Field Level Media
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