I’m tempted to bury this Rockets team. Scratch that. I’m not just tempted, I’ve already got a shovel in hand and the perfect plot of land picked out. It would be so easy to just throw the lifeless body of this season six feet under and be done with it for good. No more fourth quarter misery, no more talk of tough schedules, and no more botched entry passes. Just peace, and a glimmer of hope that maybe things will be better in the afterlife. It would all be so easy.
But I just can’t do it.
I suspect that means I’ll be a member of the minority today. And if you’re part of the group ready to read the Rockets their last rites, I don’t blame you. Giving up 37 fourth quarter points and a 16 point second half lead to a slumping Sixers team is unforgiveable; even when judged against the mindbogglingly mediocre standard Houston had already established this season.
There’s just so much not to like about this team right now. For starters, they’ve seemingly trapped their fans in the long lost horror movie version of Groundhog Day. To wit:
“We’ve got to make a conscious effort to play for four quarters and 48 minutes, instead of giving a hard effort sometimes, and then taking a couple plays off, because those plays off are killing us right now.”
“We gotta put it together. We can’t have a good quarter here, and then a bad one on the other end. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”
Sounds like an all too familiar refrain, right? That’s because those quotes came after Houston’s 97-92 loss to Orlando… nearly one month ago.
Today, after losing 111-107 to Philly, the song remains the same.
"We acted like the game was over at the start of the fourth quarter,” said a beleaguered Rick Adelman. “We're not good enough to act like the game is over.”
Rafer Alston was more succinct with his analysis: “We let up.”
But why? Why would this team, so desperate for wins of any kind, repeatedly allow its focus to wane? That’s the question everyone within the Rockets organization must be flagellating themselves with today.
Shane Battier offers up this theory: “We’re still learning. We’re still a young group. It’s really tough to win in this league.”
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Sorry, Shane, but that just doesn’t cut it right now. Last I checked, the Sixers are pretty young, too. And that didn’t stop the Rockets from making Philly look like Phoenix in the fourth quarter.
Still, it’s not my place to bury these guys. Over the course of the last week, we’ve seen the media (myself included) prematurely dispose of the Chargers and Giants. And the list of buried alive victims is even longer in the political forum. Clinton, McCain, and Romney were all handed death certificates in the last fortnight. How are they doing now?
So I’m through directing the funerals—at least for now. The Rockets are the ones who will determine their fate. They can either continue digging their own grave, or claw their way out. I’ll just stand back, watch, and tell you what I see.
So take my shovel, guys. Do with it what you will. - Jason Friedman