At some point, the Rockets’ continued dialogue regarding defensive improvement presumably will yield results beyond more empty words and additional inaction on that end of the court.
The Rockets did not move in that direction Sunday in Miami, trailing by as many as 41 points en route to a 129-100 loss to the Heat. The Rockets allowed 46 first-quarter points and Miami shot 52.8 percent overall from the floor — including a robust 18 of 41 on 3-pointers.
Houston mustered this effort on the heels of a 123-116 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and in the first game of a back-to-back, with the Rockets set to travel to Memphis to play the Grizzlies on Monday at FedEx Forum.
“We’ve got a lot of things to tighten up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “And we’ve got to get better production out of certain people defensively. But … we’re moving right along.
“A lot like last year, concerned, but we’ve just got to do better. I mean I think we will as soon as we get our legs. Shooting and defense are legs and heart. We’re either laboring or just not into people and just not there yet.”
The Rockets entered Sunday ranked last in the NBA in points allowed per game (126.6) and did little to stem that tide. Their defensive problems remain myriad and utterly familiar: a lack of energy and communication combined with a glaring inability to play fundamental man defense.
When, or if, the Rockets reach that point of defensive stability remains to be seen. A six-game sample doesn’t offer a clear view of what the Rockets will become defensively, and their immediate future might hinge on the number of opportunities they get to take positive steps.
“I think it’s better just for the fact that we need more games,” Rockets reserve guard Austin Rivers said. “The more games the better because we’re trying to figure this out. We’re trying to get our defense on the same page. Even offensive things we’re still trying to work on so as many games as we can play early on just trying to get to where we need to be, I’m all for it.”
The Grizzlies have struggled defensively, as well, but some of that is to be expected given the inexperience of their roster. Inconsistent results, on both ends of the court, are a byproduct of a rotation featuring five players 24 years old or younger averaging 20-plus minutes per game.
With a sub-100 offensive rating, Memphis could focus its short-term improvement on scoring efficiency. But the Grizzlies’ youth could serve as an asset defensively, with their energy providing the foundation for the schemes that could provide a positive thrust. These are the topics of discussion for the Grizzlies, with an emphasis on development that will be incremental.
“I always want to teach from the positive,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’ve got to get significantly better defensively, protecting the paint, transition defense, whether it’s an individual player or for our team. We’ve got bright spots, and I keep using the phrase can we do it more consistently.”
–Field Level Media