Ouch! The Houston Rockets suffered a devastating home loss to the Hornets Friday night 110-105. With this loss, Houston has dropped seven of eight and has one lone win in the month of January. February can’t get here soon enough!
Fans at the Toyota Center were blessed with an extra five minutes of basketball Friday night. Unfortunately, they were five minutes of forgettable basketball. Houston came out of the gates to their usual hot start (taking a 28-21 first quarter lead, only to fizzle out as the game draw nearer to a close.
Like any other basketball game, this game was a tale of four quarters (five including overtime). The Houston backcourt started the game off hot, propelling Houston to a first quarter lead. Then the subs came in early second quarter, in which New Orleans had the rare edge over Houston. Jarrett Jack exploded for 14 in the second, as the Hornets took the lead heading into Halftime. As expected, Houston had a quick response nailing 56% of the shots in the third (Hornets shot 29% in the quarter), rising to a game-high 12-point lead. However, this is when the fun stops.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, New Orleans knocked down 65% of their shots (15-23 from the field), battling their way back to a 5-point victory. So what went wrong? I said it before and I’ll say it again: Houston has serious problems closing out games. Blowing a 12-point lead entering the fourth AT HOME? Come on! Even Bill Worrell threw his two cents in saying how Houston fails to create easy shots down the stretch. Allowing easy shots certainly can’t help either. If it wasn’t for the outstanding guard play by Houston (Lowry-28 points , Martin-24 points) there likely wouldn’t have even been an overtime. Despite Lowry and Martin’s efforts, it would ultimately be the Hornets frontcourt that would decide the game.
Having started the game 4-13, David West suddenly struck fire (nailing five of his next seven and what seemed to be 15247 free throws). The turning point of the game came with a minute left with David West’s monster throw down on Jared Jeffries (link *disclaimer: includes free autographed poster). From here on out, you could sense this was New Orleans game to win.
With all this said, the Rockets did have the opportunity to win the game on the last possession. Riding the hot shooter, Houston put in the hands of Kyle Lowry as he pulled up for a mid-range jumper…bouncing left off the rim as the buzzer sounds.
In overtime, it was the Chris Paul show. Paul was noticeably hobbling up and down the court all game (only 5 points on 1-8 shooting heading into OT). But elite players turn it on when it counts, and a one-legged Chris Paul is still an elite player. Clyde Drexler noted on Paul, “If he’s on the court and he can walk, he is still dangerous.” And dangerous he was! With crucial baskets, assists, and steals in OT, Paul propelled his Hornets to a last-minute victory over Houston. After a clutch three by Battier to give Houston a 102-100 lead and a great 24-second defensive effort to force a shot clock violation on New Orleans, Chris Paul, then, took the life out of the Toyota center. Stealing the inbounds pass, Paul drove to the hoop gift-wrapping a layup for David West to tie the game. Not even 20 seconds later, Paul comes back and nails a 20-footer from the top of the key (giving New Orleans a 104-102 lead as he comes back down the court limping. Thanks to a couple missed free throws by former Rocket Trevor Ariza, Houston inbounds the ball down 106-102 as Lowry comes out of a pick to make a miraculous three with 4.4 seconds left on the game clock (106-105 Hornets lead). Add on two more free throws by Jarrett Jack and Houston has a chance to tie with 3.7 seconds. One problem: no timeouts. Not even the great Shane Battier could heave the pass full court, getting intercepted by Chris Paul as he lays it in with zeros on the clock.
Another heartbreaking loss for the Houston Rockets as their record drops to 17-23 (3.5 games out of the West’s 8th seed). Houston travels to Atlanta Saturday for a back-to-back (a good way to get this bad taste out of their mouth).