Why Can’t the Rockets Win?

The Houston Rockets fell to the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday night, their fifth loss of the season and their third in a row. It’s a dismal start for the team, and a stunning one–they were one of the highest-rated teams coming into the season and would have probably made it to last year’s NBA Finals were it not for the superpowered Golden State Warriors.

Tonight’s loss puts them among only three other teams in the league that have as bad of a record or worse: The Washington Wizards, the Phoenix Suns, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The difference with the Rockets is that they were expected to be at the top.

So what is going wrong, and why have the Rockets lost by a combined 50-or-so points in their last three games? Here are a few things that could be the culprit.

James Harden and Chris Paul Have Missed Games

Chris Paul lakers

GettyChris Paul was suspended for two games after a fight that erupted during their game against the Lakers on October 20th.

This one’s obvious. James Harden missed Friday’s loss against the Clippers and remained on the bench tonight. Chris Paul was suspended for two games–against the Clippers and then the Jazz–both of which ended in losses for the Rockets.

But Houston has a deep roster, and the Clippers game was the only one where both star players were missing. So what’s to account for the rest?

The Carmelo Anthony Curse

GettyCarmelo Anthony’s tenure with OKC was less successful than expected.

After Carmelo Anthony’s disappointing stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, many were rightly skeptical of how effective he’d be for the Rockets. Thus far in the season he’s averaging 14.1 points per game–usually spotting up for the three and acting as a sharpshooter–but the Rockets’ record suggests that there may be something to the “Carmelo Anthony curse.”

He’s not playing poorly, and he’s certainly an asset on paper, but this Rockets start is reminiscent of the Thunder’s start last year: they were stacked with stars, but struggled to find a rhythm early on.

Waiting on Jimmy Butler

The Rockets have recently made their way into the center of the Jimmy Butler trade drama, and it’s rumored that the Timberwolves will want four future-first-round picks–and shooting guard Eric Gordon.

Gordon was a 6th Man of the Year Award nominee last season and averaged close to 20 points per game off the bench for the Rockets. Not all players are affected by being in the conversation about potential trades mid-season, but maybe Eric Gordon has been. He’s had a few great games so far–he scored 21 against both the Pelicans and the Clippers–but his numbers haven’t yet reached last year’s standard.

Besides Gordon, the entire team could be affected by the possibility of Butler joining the team. It’s no excuse–NBA teams and the professional basketball players on them should be prepared for something like this at all times.

But regardless, they seem out of rhythm; maybe they’re wondering where Butler would fit in.

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Source: Heavy Sports