The Rockets have resorted to strong finishes in the fourth quarter to earn victories in each of their last two games. The start they got off to tonight in Oklahoma City was much, much more than they could overcome in Oklahoma City as they fell behind 13-0, before losing 117-86.
There was less than six minutes remaining in the first quarter before the Rockets scored their first points. They missed their first twelve shots of the game and were already down 13 points before Dwight Howard's hook shot broke the seal on scoring for the Rockets.
The Rockets finished the first quarter hitting just five of their 24 shots in the opening quarter and just one of six of their 3-pointers. The 3-point shooting has been a month long problem. They entered the game shooting just 30.6 percent on 3-pointers in December, the worst mark in the league. They'd finish tonight even lower than that, making just 7-of-28 attempts (25 percent) tonight.
They never slowed down the Thunder, who were playing without Russell Westbrook for the second game since he underwent surgery on his right knee. You could hardly tell with Kevin Durant scoring 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting and former Rockets draft pick adding a career high 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The Rockets only got as close as nine points the rest of the game and that was only for a brief moment.
"We didnt play well the whole night, they outplayed us," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "They were more aggressive than we were. They attacked. while we went east-west with the ball. We had eight assists all night long. There were open guys and we didn't hit them early. We couldnt find a line up that could work.
"We couldnt find anything tonight, we couldnt find a spark, we were just bad from start to finish. We were bad tonight. We couldn't stop them, we couldn't run, we had nothing."
Chandler Parsons had 15 points, which led the Rockets starters, and he was the only one of them to reach double figures. Aaron Brooks led the team with 17 points and Omri Casspi had 15 points.
While it seemed reasonable to think the extended minutes most of the Rockets have been playing recently and the intensive game schedule could lead to results like the one in this game, McHale scoffed at that idea.
"You're playing basketball, you're not loggin tall timbers," McHale said. "Four games in five nights, meh."
It should be noted that McHale on more than one occassion during the last three wins has mentioned that he is playing guys a lot more minutes that he'd like.
The Rockets will play once more before flipping the calendar to 2014, when they host Sacramento in their annual New Year's Eve game on Tuesday.