THIRD QUARTER BLUES: Three takeaways from Rockets loss in San Antonio
The Rockets were favorites for the first time all season when they took on a Spurs team that had lost 11 straight games. They led early but were outscored 39-23 in an ugly third quarter on their way to a 118-109 loss. Here are three takeaways from tonight’s game.
Ugly second half
Jalen Green’s buzzer-beater put the Rockets up by three at halftime, and the Rockets jumped out to a seven-point lead when Green hit a 15-foot pull-up a little more than two minutes into the third quarter, but it was all Spurs the rest of the way. They went on a 14-2 run to go up five and then followed it up with a 10-2 burst to increase their advantage to 14. Houston allowed 39 points in the third quarter to the league’s worst offense and managed to score just 23 points against the league’s worst defense.
San Antonio entered the game losers of 11 straight, and the Spurs played like a team desperate to end that extended skid. After winning four of seven, including Monday’s double overtime win over the Sixers, the Rockets could not match their energy.
Second unit struggles
Some nights Stephen Silas will mirror the minutes of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr, and some nights he’ll stagger them. In the first half against the Spurs, Silas mirrored his two starting guards and played them all 12 minutes of the first quarter, and the Rockets scored 29 points on 46 percent shooting with one turnover. Porter and Green handed the second unit, led by Daishen Nix and Eric Gordon, a five-point lead, and they squandered it.
The Rockets’ first three possessions of the second quarter ended in a turnover, and the Spurs pulled in front with a 9-1 run. The Rockets missed their first five shots of the period and had five turnovers before settling down a bit by finishing with a 10-4 run before Green and Porter re-entered the game. Silas had the Gordon-Nix backcourt on the floor for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, and his team was again outscored by two points.
Finishing as a -4 over 11 minutes may not seem like a big deal in a game you trailed by double digits until garbage time, but that second-quarter stretch where the Rockets had everything going in their direction was a killer.
A better start
The Rockets allowed 38.2 points in their previous five first quarters, leading to a 10.2-point deficit, but on Thursday, They limited San Antonio to a 24-point opening 12 minutes, which staked them to a five-point lead. The defense wasn’t good at the start of the period, with Keldon Johnson hitting all five of his shots, but it picked up once Johnson went to the bench. A big key to the Rockets’ first quarter improvement was that they committed just one turnover, forcing the league’s worst offense into the half-court.
The Rockets will start a seven-game homestand when Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks make their only visit to Toyota Center