Following a seemingly endless string of games in December, the Houston Rockets returned home Tuesday following a promising five-game road trip and a three-day break that provided a needed respite.
But instead of taking advantage of the pause, the Rockets played poorly and were dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs 134-104, extending their home losing streak to nine consecutive games. The Rockets will look to end that skid when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
"I've been in situations before like this where you come off road trips and the first game still feels like you're on the road," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. "I've been in situations where you have three days off and you lose some of the stuff that you had in those three days.
"It's hard to keep your edge and hard to keep all the things we had going on the trip with a three-day stretch. So as good as the three days were for us, it looked to me like we lost some of our edge that we had on the road."
The performance against San Antonio marked another lackluster defensive effort from the Rockets, who allowed the Spurs to shoot 57.4 percent while scoring a whopping 82 points in the paint. Houston knew what the Spurs wanted to accomplish offensively, yet despite extensive preparation, it showed another disconnect between readiness and execution.
"As I continue to say, it's very much more about how we do it defensively as opposed to what the teams are doing to us," Silas said. "Part of this season is taking what you do in the walkthrough, what you do in the shootaround and applying it in the game. We didn't do a good job of that."
The Trail Blazers appeared to build some momentum on the road after struggling away from Portland all season, but this week they followed back-to-back victories in Boston and Toronto with a pair of home losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. Their 132-112 setback to Dallas on Wednesday came in the second game of a back-to-back.
Portland had dropped 15 of 19 on the road before defeating the Celtics and Raptors and seemingly setting the stage for an extended stretch of success. Instead, the Trail Blazers continued riding what has been a roller coaster of uneven results, falling to 7-6 in January.
"It is disappointing, but like I've said several times I just want to keep us advancing, getting better," Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. "We had some good moments but more moments where we need improvement areas that cost us. But we'll get it figured out."
Billups lamented a lack of attention to detail in the early stages against the Mavericks, with Portland surrendering 40 first-quarter points before slicing the deficit to four midway through the third quarter. But the Trail Blazers' miscues are often tied to personnel groupings, a situation exacerbated by their attrition as they continue to be hounded by injuries.
Portland was without six rotation players against the Mavericks, with forwards Nassir Little (shoulder) and Robert Covington (knee) joining the list of the infirmed this week. Covington had been sidelined for only three games previously this season.
The Blazers announced Thursday that Little has a labral tear in his left shoulder, with ESPN reporting it could keep him out the rest of the season.
"Obviously we missed Nas and RoCo tremendously," Billups said. "We missed them a ton."
--Field Level Media