The All-Star break appears to have offered little in the way of a reprieve for the Houston Rockets, who will open the second half of the regular season on Thursday night in Sacramento saddled with a 13-game losing streak.
The Rockets will be without center Christian Wood (ankle) and forward Danuel House Jr. (knee) as they face the Kings. Houston guard Eric Gordon (knee) was listed as questionable.
Injuries were the prevailing theme of the first half for the Rockets, who had just three players — rookie Jae’Sean Tate and veterans P.J. Tucker and Sterling Brown — appear in at least 30 games. Only Tucker has started a minimum of 30 games, with the Rockets having utilized 14 different starters already this season. Three of those players — James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins and Mason Jones — are no longer with the team.
Wood, whose departure coincided with the start of the Rockets’ skid, has resumed basketball activities but appears at least several days away from returning to action. That he wasn’t ready to return for the start of the second half is just the latest in a series of setbacks for Houston, which has endured so much upheaval that a fair evaluation of the first-half results is difficult.
“With guys not playing back-to-backs, with injuries, with so many inconsistencies, it was really hard to find a pattern,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “Evaluating what’s good and what’s bad was based more on the last part of the season and really making sure we’re on top of those parts as opposed to the whole because I feel like we really haven’t had a whole, healthy group except for that one stretch (prior to the Wood injury). It really hasn’t been much continuity.”
The Kings once harbored sincere playoff hopes, at least in terms of contesting for a spot in a West play-in series. A nine-game February swoon essentially snuffed those dreams, knocking Sacramento from one game over .500 to 12-20 just prior to a split of the final four games before the All-Star break. Only one of those losses came against a team out of the playoff picture.
Now Sacramento, like the Rockets, faces an uncertain immediate future regarding its roster construction. Rumors persist that forward Harrison Barnes, second on the team in scoring (16.7 points per game) and third in rebounding (6.1) could be shipped prior to the trade deadline in another move to accumulate youth or trade assets. Of the six players averaging at least 26 minutes per game for the Kings, Barnes — soon to be 29 — is the oldest.
Losing Barnes would undercut the Kings’ desire to develop beyond perennial also-rans. His presence hasn’t elevated Sacramento to playoff contenders, but trading away a reliable veteran would make it clear that Sacramento is punting on this season with an eye toward next season.
In the interim, the Kings are left to consider how they can make the most of the upcoming second half. Their recent losing skid cast a light on their more obvious shortcomings.
“We’ve really got to take our focus level up,” Sacramento center Richaun Holmes said. “Physically we’re competing. We’re there, we’re playing hard, we’re scrapping and the mistakes we’ve really got to cut down on, especially in the fourth (quarter) and end-of-game situations. So we just have to continue to get better on the mental side of the game, continue to lock in on film work and get better that way.”
–Field Level Media
Published: 2021-03-11 03:12:14
Tags: #Rockets #carry #13game #skid #matchup #Kings