Rockets digging deep hole with loss to Suns

If the Rockets are to get healthy and write a comeback story, they’ve set the stage by digging themselves a pretty deep hole.

Houston Rockets Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill, 14 points on 7-8, 10 boards (video)

All five Suns starters scored 15 points or more Monday night as the Rockets dropped their fourth straight contest, a 123-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Houston, to fall to 3-10 on the year.

Three and Ten. Many of us were skeptical of things like their defense, but I don’t think anyone anticipated this start.

The Rockets did not hit their first three-pointer until the second half, going 0-12 from distance in the first two periods. They also put the Suns at the line 38 times and were outscored by 20 points at the stripe.

This was one of Shane Battier‘s worst games as a Rocket. He was 3-13 from the field and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so nailed to the floor (and that’s saying a lot). He couldn’t shoot over, past or through anyone. To make matters worse, he made two sloppy passes that sealed the game with the Rockets down 5 with 17 seconds to go.

I’m not anti-Battier. He’s been a terrific role player since he got here and I hope we’ll see more from him when he’s playing off of Yao Ming again. But much like the loss to the Warriors: when you give up 123 points and you’ve played Battier 30 minutes, what was his impact?

Chase Budinger is another scary tale — he simply can’t buy a triple. He was 0-4 from beyond the arc today, meaning he’s now 5-35 (14.3%) from there on the year. This is temporary… Budinger has been too good from three to stay this cold.

The Rockets could fashion some of the finest clothing in the land with all the silver lining they’ve collected in their losses, but there was some more here. Their bench, which has been pitiful this season, finally delivered.

Jordan Hill looked good (see: Jordan Hill video highlights vs. Suns) — he hit 7-8 shots for 14 points and 10 boards in just 22 minutes of play and from the ‘strange but true’ department, he kept Luis Scola (16 points) on the bench the entire fourth quarter. Courtney Lee also had a season high with 16 points, including a pair of triples late in a desperate attempt to get Houston back in the game.

Kyle Lowry picked a career-high 6 steals to go with 13 points and 8 boards.

The reality though is the Rockets are 3-10, tied for the second worst record in the league. They are 1-4 at home and in eight games against Western Conference opponents, their only win came against the Timberwolves. Those are lottery indicators.

I still wouldn’t panic. I’d be looking for deals certainly (this team is long overdue for a 2-for-1 deal), but I wouldn’t blow it up. A team can “click” overnight. I would draw a line at February, but right now I would focus on getting two expected starters (Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks) back and draw conclusions on role players after that.

That’s the pain of it though — we knew the Rockets lacked a “star” player, so it was imperative that they got out of the gate strong this year to be attractive to the Carmelo Anthonys of the world and position themselves to take advantage of the unexpectedly underperforming team pondering a fire sale.

Unfortunately, the stongest candidate right now to be that team is the Rockets.

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