I've mentioned in this space on numerous occasions that you have to take the good and bad with youth. It's exciting and fast-paced and fun, but it's also exceedingly frustrating. On a weekend that saw the Texans go out more with a whimper than a bang, it would have been nice for the other halfway decent professional sports franchise in town to do something interesting, like win. Alas, after riding a five-game winning streak, they dropped four games (three of them on the road) including a lost Saturday night to Boston, the night before the Texans lost up the road in Foxboro. Ouch.
Last night, the Clippers who are destroying teams all over the NBA (yes, THOSE Clippers), did the same to the Rockets dispatching them 117-109 in a game that wasn't that close and that was without star guard Chris Paul who was out with an injury. His backup and strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year early on, Jamal Crawford, absolutely torched Houston for 30 points in just 29 minutes of action. Just a week ago, the Rockets were running LA's sister team, the Lakers, right out of the building. Weird.
Turnovers, inconsistent shooting and poor defense have all been part of the equation in costing the Rockets wins all season and the same was true over this four-game stretch. Even in the Eastern Conference, where they seem to thrive, they were beat up by Boston and Philadelphia as they enter what is likely the toughest stretch of games this season in January.
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Winning teams, particularly those with veteran players, understand that winning in this league is difficult. On any night, a team with a terrible record can beat you. The teams that consistently succeed are the ones that don't need a high shooting percentage or the pressure of facing a playoff contender to win games. The Rockets are not that team yet.
Young players make dumb mistakes under pressure, force shots when they don't have them and tend to play down to the level of competition. The Rockets have done that too often this season, which is why they are 21-18 instead of 25-14 or 24-15 this week.
And it doesn't get any easier. Their next four games are on the road with a back-to-back travel game mixed in. They face the Mavericks, who finally have Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup, in Dallas before traveling to Indiana to face the solid Pacers and then Minnesota to match up with the Timberwolves, who are without forward Kevin Love at the moment. They wrap it up with a road game against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats. But they still face the Nuggets (twice), the Nets and the Jazz before ending the month.
They are learning on the fly and it can be frustrating to watch, but with a tough schedule over the next few weeks, it is unlikely much will change.