The 2021-22 season isn’t yet one month old, so identities haven’t been cemented, even for teams such as the Houston Rockets, who are in their second season of a complete rebuild.
But after the Rockets suffered their 11th consecutive defeat Sunday via a 115-89 loss to the Phoenix Suns, it’s easy to see how nerves can become frayed even this early in the schedule.
Houston appears to be making the same mistakes repeatedly, with those miscues compounded by poor shooting from the free-throw line and behind the arc.
During their recent five-game road trip, the Rockets played competitive basketball and seemed to be making strides. However, the loss to the Suns called into question whether the Rockets regressed during the past week, and now Houston will embark on a four-game road trip that starts against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday seeking to return to the progress they made when last on the road.
“In a way, yeah we did (take a step back), I think so,” Rockets forward Christian Wood said. “We had a lot of defensive lapses. It’s the same old story with the second half. We got to do better in the second half. We have to execute better. We have to know (after timeout plays). Just execute.”
The Rockets committed 23 turnovers against the Suns, including 17 in the first half that Phoenix converted into 17 points to fuel its scuffling offense. And Houston shot 7 of 32 on 3-pointers for a second consecutive game, rendering moot those moments when the defense is up to snuff.
Second-year coach Stephen Silas intimated that a change to the starting lineup might be in the offing, a sensible response considering how often he has challenged his team to adhere to the details. When the Rockets fail to do so time after time, it leaves Silas parroting past remarks.
“Poor decision-making,” Silas said, outlining the issues against the Suns. “Getting into the paint making poor passes or deflected passes at times. Outlet passes that get stolen. Yeah, just a lack of attention to detail.”
Memphis is experiencing similar doldrums, just not to the same extreme extent as the Rockets.
The Grizzlies have dropped three consecutive games and four of five, with each of those setbacks coming by double digits and with an average margin of defeat of 18.5 points per game. Memphis hit an early floor with their 112-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, a defeat that enabled the Pelicans to snap a nine-game skid and win at home for the first time.
The Grizzlies have yet to be emboldened by the return of swingman Dillon Brooks, who made his first start of the season in just his second game Friday. Memphis is shooting 43.4 percent from the floor, good for 25th in the NBA, and is also in the bottom 10 in 3-point percentage at 33.1 percent.
“I think we have issues on both ends, and both are dictating the other,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “If our defense is struggling, we’re taking the ball out of the net or free throws and we can’t run like we’re used to. And offensively when we’re missing shots, it puts pressure on our defense to try to get stops. When teams score, it’s like a ping-pong back and forth. Both sides have got to get better.”