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Rockets Outpaced In Indy

January 18, 2013 10:48 pm EST

Rockets drop sixth straight as red-hot Paul George sparks Pacers to 105-95 win

HOUSTON - Paul George couldn’t miss and Houston couldn’t stop turning the ball over. As a result, the Rockets fell behind early and faced yet another double-digit deficit. And following a script that has become all too familiar, Houston’s inevitable rally eventually fell short as the Rockets suffered their season-high sixth straight loss, dropping a 105-95 decision to the Pacers.

The Rockets entered Friday night’s contest knowing all about Indiana’s well-deserved reputation for being a terrific defensive team. The Pacers use their length and size as well as any squad in the NBA, limiting opponents to poor percentages on high value shots while frequently forcing their foes to take less efficient field goal attempts from undesirable shooting locations on the floor. Nothing Indiana did on that end of the court came as any sort of surprise.

What Houston could not have anticipated, however, was the stunning marksmanship the Pacers displayed on the offensive end. Despite coming into the contest as one of the worst shooting teams in the league, Indiana began the game by draining a barrage of shots from beyond the arc, with George leading the way by knocking down four 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. The Rockets, meanwhile, got lost amid a morass of turnovers, coughing it up eight times in the opening period. Not surprisingly, that toxic combination put Houston in a big early hole, as the Rockets fell behind by as much as 16 points in the first half.

Also expected: when Houston proved able to hang onto the ball the Rockets had no problem hanging with the Pacers. The second quarter saw Houston do just that while the club began to slowly chip away at its deficit. Jeremy Lin sparked a key stretch with a terrific pass, a triple and a fast break layup. Chandler Parsons (16 points) continued his steady play and strong shooting of late to help the Rockets draw closer still. And Omer Asik (career-high 22 points and 12 rebounds) began dominating the offensive glass, allowing Houston much-needed extra possessions and easy baskets against Indy’s fierce, stingy defense. By halftime, the Rockets had moved within seven and were showing signs of potentially snapping out of their slump.

But after a bright start to the third quarter, the Rockets rapidly found themselves succumbing to many of the same issues that had put them in their hole to begin with and, indeed, problems that had largely been the bane of their existence for the entirety of this six-game stretch. The turnover bug reared its ugly head once more as Houston continued to let precious possessions slip through its fingers due to mental miscues and unforced errors. Needing to go small, in part because of poor production at the power forward position, the Rockets began getting beaten badly on the offensive glass. And for the second straight contest, leading scorer and offensive talisman James Harden suffered through a rough shooting night – in no small part due to the tremendous Pacers defense, especially that of Paul George – going 5-19 from the field with five turnovers.

Indiana, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate uncanny and unusual accuracy from 3-point range – the Pacers hit 11-19 from beyond the arc despite ranking 26th in 3-point percentage and averaging just 6.4 made 3s per game – with George (7-10 from deep, 31 points overall) and David West doing much of the heavy lifting on offense. And though Carlos Delfino’s big fourth quarter breathed life into Houston late, the Rockets’ recent pattern of never quite being able to get over the hump ultimately prevailed once more, prompting postgame questions of whether or not this team, having played so spectacularly well prior to this losing streak, had hit a bit of a midseason wall.

“I think everybody is a little bit (tired),” admitted Houston head coach Kevin McHale. “We don’t have just a lot of zip right now. We don’t have a lot of juice and we’ve got to get it back. This is a long season and we have to find it again. We’re just in a funk. It just doesn’t look like we have much spark out there. We can get things going for awhile but then we have those periods when we really struggle. We’re constantly going through a period, usually in the first half, where we just have a slew of turnovers. We get down and then from that point on it’s a battle to get back within five, a battle to get back within four – it’s hard to get over the hump.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(Has Harden hit a wall?)

I think everybody is a little bit (tired). We don’t have just a lot of zip right now. We don’t have a lot of juice and we’ve got to get it back. This is a long season and we have to find it again. We’re just in a funk. It just doesn’t look like we have much spark out there. We can get things going for awhile but then we have those periods when we really struggle. We’re constantly going through a period, usually in the first half, where we just have a slew of turnovers. We get down and then from that point on it’s a battle to get back within five, a battle to get back within four – it’s hard to get over the hump.

(the struggles with the power forward position)

We’ve got to figure out something where we get a little more spark and a little more jump in our team.

JEREMY LIN

“(On the Pacers’ defense) They did a good job of being where they were supposed to be.  They were able to get their hands in the passing lanes and disrupt what we were trying to do, we were never able to build a lot of momentum at any point in the game. When we get down that much at some point in time everything has to go your way for you to be able to get back in the game.  We can’t keep putting ourselves in a position where we have to play a near perfect game.  It’s not one thing that we have to fix, we just have to go back to the basics, play better defense and do a better job rebounding.”

JAMES HARDEN

I think it’s just a bunch of small things.  The things that help you win games.  We have to do a better job of helping our bigs and they have to do a better job of helping the guards, we have to do a better job of helping everybody rebound, we’re turning the ball over way too much.  Teams are getting a lot of offensive rebounds against us.  When we turn it over too much the other team is getting easy points and we can’t run our offense the way we would like.  We’ve lost six in a row, it wasn’t about the Pacers tonight. We just have to get better.”

INDIANA PACERS HEAD COACH FRANK VOGEL

“I’m really proud of our guys for playing a complete basketball game.  It was a very, very strong defensive effort.  Passing was our best friend tonight.  Paul George, what can you say?  I’ve never really seen a defender like Paul.  He’s dominating.  He was dominant tonight.  All year he has taken the leading scorers and held them under their averages.  They are a tough team to guard.  They are impressive offensively.  I’m happy where we’re at.  A 50-win pace is good considering where we were the first two weeks when we struggled.  We have to grow offensively.”

PAUL GEORGE

“We’re getting good quality wins.  But we still have a lot of room to grow.  I think defensively we’re holding up great.  But this road trip coming up is going to challenge us.  If our offense can continue to get better and improve I think that’s when our confidence will be where we want it. 

(On his defense on James Harden) He’s tough.  He’s a handful.  You are talking about one of the best guards in this league.  But I just wanted to make him shoot over my length and really force him to have plays at the rim where Roy (Hibbert) and Ian (Mahinmi) are playing so well, going straight up.”

GEORGE HILL

“It was a good effort.  We did a good job of holding them.  We know they’re first in the NBA in fast break opportunities.  And we tried to eliminate that.  It got away a little but you have to tip your hat to this team defensively. 

(On the confidence level playing at home) It was high.  Anytime you play at home you get a sense of urgency, knowing you have to protect your home court.  We feel we can complete with anybody at home.”

DAVID WEST

“I thought we had to lock in on their transition, their ability to score in the 100’s.  We did a good job of keeping them in the 90’s. I thought guys just did a good job of locking in and limiting them some in transition. 

(On defending Harden) We know he’s one of the best guards in the league as far as creating his own shots and shots for others and getting to the free throw line.  I thought we did a good job of contesting all of his shots.”