Uninspired effort: Three takeaways from Monday’s 124-105 loss to the Spurs

Dec 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Uninspired effort: Three takeaways from Monday’s 124-105 loss to the Spurs

The Rockets played a San Antonio Spurs team down its leading scorer and laid an egg on Monday night, losing 124-105. Without Keldon Johnson and his 21 points per game, the Rockets still allowed the Spurs to score 35 points in the first quarter, and while they played well in the second quarter to take the lead at halftime, they were completely outclassed in all facets of the game in the second half. Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and Jabari Smith Jr. combined for 37 points on 13-of-42 shooting as the Rockets lost their third straight game.

Another bad third quarter

The Rockets only trailed by six at halftime of Saturday’s loss to the Blazers, but were outscored 28-14 in the third quarter; believe it or not, Monday was worse. The Rockets led 62-60 at halftime against the Spurs but completely fell apart after the break. San Antonio won the period 32-14, shooting 11-of-16 from the field to the Rockets’ 5-of-25.

The quarter was epitomized by a six-second stretch. Kevin Porter Jr. drove for a layup to tie the game at 66, but the Rockets allowed Porter’s man, Tre Jones, to take the inbounds pass and sprint up the floor for a layup without anyone making any sort of effort to stop him, forcing a Rockets timeout. The timeout didn’t work, as the Rockets were outscored 24-10 the rest of the quarter.

“That’s who we were tonight,” Silas said. “That’s not who we should be.”

Terrific second quarter follows a dreadful first

The Rockets talked about playing with a lack of energy on Saturday and again following Sunday’s practice. They responded by playing with less energy in the first quarter on Monday. The Spurs built a 10-point lead before four minutes had elapsed off the clock, and the Rockets allowed 35 points in the period to a team that entered the game with the NBA’s 28th-best offense, which was missing leading scorer Keldon Johnson.

The second quarter was a completely different story. San Antonio still shot the ball well in the second quarter, but the Rockets’ defense limited the Spurs to 25 points because it was able to force nine turnovers, which led to 11 points. The Rockets won the second quarter 34-25.

“I thought our energy was great,” Silas said. “Think they had 13 turnovers in the first half. We were converting those turnovers (into points). We were playing with great energy on both ends of the floor. We are forcing them to miss.”

Quality minutes from Daishen Nix

TyTy Washington was the Rockets’ backup point guard for the last two games; Nix reclaimed that spot on Monday and played his best game of the season. On his first possession of the game, he got downhill and delivered a perfect pass to Usman Garuba, but Garuba blew the layup. Nix continued to run the offense at a high level, and the Rockets needed him after Kevin Porter Jr. picked up his fourth foul with 7:17 left in the second quarter. Nix played the entire second quarter and dished out seven assists without turning the ball over. He was a big part of why the Rockets had the lead at halftime.

“He did a great job,” Silas said. “He’s a point guard. He makes plays. He’s physical. (Does) good job of getting into the ball and making it hard on the opposing point guard.”

Nix has had his ups and downs this season, but he is still just 20-years old and learning on the fly, much like many of his teammates.

Next up

The Rockets will play the sixth game of their season-long seven-game homestand on Wednesday night when Paolo Banchero and the Orlando visit Toyota Center.

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