Harden on injury: 'I'm in pain right now'
The Rockets are already on the verge of surpassing last season's total of games missed due to injury or illness and they only just completed their 25th game of the season. Their 25th game was very disappointing, considering it was a loss to the Kings on Sunday night, 106-91. The Kings are now just 7-15 on the season.
Houston had just 50 man-games lost due to injury or illness last season. Against Sacramento, they pushed their total this season to 42 games because guard Jeremy Lin missed the game with back spasms.
He'd already missed six games with a right knee sprain earlier this season and this injury came during their game Friday night against Golden State.
Acting head coach Kelvin Sampson didn't sound optimistic that Lin would be ready for their next game, which is Wednesday at home against the Chicago Bulls.
"Jeremy may be out awhile, awhile meant today and maybe against Chicago," Sampson said of his conversation before the game with Jason Biles, the team's Director of Performance Rehabilitation.
Then early in the third quarter, James Harden badly twisted his left ankle when he stepped on the foot of the the Kings' Ben McLemore. He stayed on the court through a timeout, but remained in the game to shoot his free throws. He did so while standing on just one foot, holding his left foot in mid-air as he sank both shots.
"I'm in pain right now," James Harden said after the game. "It was throbbing and numb. I taped it up real tight to see if I could go out there and move and it wasn't working. So I shut it down."
Harden returned later in the third quarter and even made his first shot after returning - a 3-pointer. However, he missed his next five shots and midway through the fourth quarter he checked out for the rest of the night.
Center Greg Smith did return to the Rockets lineup after missing the previous 14 games after suffering a right knee sprain on Nov. 14 versus the New York Knicks.
There are only four teams in the western conference with losing records. The Rockets have lost to three of them now, following their loss at Sacramento, 106-91. They have split a pair of games against Utah (6-20), have lost their only games against the Los Angeles Lakers (11-12) and the Kings (7-15) and beat Memphis (10-13) in their only meeting.
What's even more perplexing is Houston has wins against Portland (21-4) and San Antonio (19-4), the two best teams in the west, and both of those games were in their buildings.
"This game is not a lot different than the Utah game we played last week," Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "Sometimes you have to figure out that no matter who you play in this league you have to bring your 'A' game."
Houston lost to Utah 109-103 on Dec. 2, after allowing the Jazz to 36 points in the first quarter, the second-most they've allowed to any team this season in the opening quarter.
"I didn't think we were ready to play tonight," Sampson said. "Tonight, I didn't think it was a good effort. At some point, we have to learn, no matter who we play, we've got to be mentally ready to play and have the right mindset going in.
"We're letting too many of these games slip away."
The Rockets had six turnovers in the first quarter and missed all five of their 3-pointers, yet managed to still be tied at the end of the period.
But with the game tied at 36, the Kings went on a 12-2 run, during which the Rockets missed six consecutive free throws and committed three of their 17 turnovers.
The Rockets were also outrebounded for the third consecutive game. They had been outrebounded only four times prior to that. They are 2-5 when losing the battle of the boards.