So close, yet so far.
The Houston Rockets lost to the Denver Nuggets Saturday night 107-94. It is the third consecutive loss where the Rockets have had a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
This the first time the Rockets have suffered defeat in a home opener since the 2000-2001 season.
The Rockets were led by the efforts of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. Scola put up 28 points, while Martin finished with 21 for the night but was ineffective from 3-point range. Houston went 3-for-19 on the night and failed to take advantage of open looks from the perimeter.
Yao Ming had another solid night as he finished with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. He played efficient basketball and chipped in with a respectable 6 rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony who had 24 points, four rebounds, and four assists led Denver for the night. Chauncey Billups scored 13 and Nene had 12 points and 12 rebounds. The win is only the fifth time the Nuggets have won in Houston in their last 18 games.
Often times, it is the Rockets’ bench that is outplayed by their opponent, and that was definitely the case Saturday night.
The Nuggets’ bench outscored the Rockets’ bench 42-20, helping to offset Houston’s 54-38 advantage in the paint.
Al Harrington came off the bench leading the Nuggets with 28 points and outscored the Rockets bench single handedly.
The Rockets usually reliable bench seemed outmatched the entire night. Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry combined for a putrid 1-14 shooting.
Despite the poor bench play, the Rockets were within striking distance late in the game. They went on a 13-5 run midway through the fourth quarter to close their deficit to 90-89 with 5:24 remaining. However, Houston’s defense failed them in the fading minutes as Denver guard Chauncey Billups drained a 25-footer to that sparked a 9-0 run and sealed the game.
The Rockets defense has been awful to start the season and it was no better against Denver. The loss is the third consecutive game the Rockets have allowed their opponents to eclipse the century mark. The Rockets currently are last in the NBA in points allowed per game.
The positive? The Rockets offense is capable of keeping the team in ball games despite the defense. The Rockets 94 points last night were the lowest of the season, but the team still ranks among the highest scoring teams in the league.
Another positive for the Rockets is the recent play of Luis Scola. Scola followed a 36-point, 18-rebound performance against Golden State with another eye-opening performance against Denver. With 28 points and 10 rebounds, Scola notched his third straight double-double of the young season and is quickly becoming the Rockets MVP.
The negative? The 0-3 start is the worst start for the Rockets since the 1999-2000 campaign. Houston started that season 0-5 and missed the playoffs with a 34-48 record.