Rockets 108, Pacers 117 - When the Threes Don't Fall, the Rockets Do

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This game could not have started any better for the Rockets, who opened the game up on an 18-2 run. In that stretch, the Rockets defense really took center stage as they forced the Pacers to miss ten of their first eleven attempts, as well as forcing five turnovers. Houston made four of their first six attempts and got to the free throw line a lot in the quarter (they hit all ten attempts). Despite everything clicking for the Rockets at pretty much every other aspect of the floor, the Rockets’ three-point shooting was basically nonexistent – they just hit one of their nine attempts. After a 10-2 run from Indiana, Houston closed the quarter out strong – getting awesome contributions from Nene, who imposed his will and scored nine points in the period.

Houston continued playing well to start the second period, and Lou Williams stayed hot as a Rocket to bring his scoring total up to 11 points, which included two more threes. Unfortunately, Lou was the only Rockets to shoot well at all from downtown (aside from Sam Dekker’s one make in two attempts) in the first half and Houston’s double-digit lead was slowly whittled down to nothing. As a matter of fact, a pair of free throws gave the Pacers their first lead of the game with 24 seconds left in the first half. At halftime, the Rockets were down 59-58.

Houston’s poor outside shooting continued to haunt the Rockets in the third quarter, and it seemed that the Pacers had found that three-point shooting stroke the Rockets so desired. Ironically, it would be a three-pointer (and-one) from Eric Gordon that would momentarily regain the lead for the Rockets. Houston’s defense was extremely porous following that play, and the Pacers went on a 9-0 run. Down 88-80, the Rockets faced their largest deficit of the game going into the fourth quarter.

After a barrage of turnovers and, yes, more missed shots, the Pacers built their lead to double-digits and things were looking pretty bleak. However, Lou Williams was not going to let the Rockets go down without a fight. With Harden really struggling to get going offensively (and just being too passive on that end of the court), Houston needed every single one of Lou’s 15 points in the quarter (game-high 28 for the game). Lou put his final stamp on this game when he drew a Myles Turner foul on a deep three, which he hit to bring to Rockets to within two points (110-108) with just over one minute left in the game. Unfortunately, he missed the free throw and Trevor Ariza missed a layup attempt after hauling in the rebound in traffic. The Rockets failed to execute defensively, and the Pacers ended the game on a 7-0 run.

Houston’s inability to hit outside shots wasn’t the only problem in this game (but it was a big one, 22% on 45 three-point attempts just won't cut it), however, as the Pacers outrebounded the Rockets 64-53 and winning the battle of points in the paint, second chance points, fastbreak points, and points off turnovers. Nonetheless, this is a game the Rockets should have won, but it was just one of those rare off shooting nights that not only affects the stat sheet, but the team’s demeanor as well.

The Rockets look to get back on the winning track on Wednesday, when they head to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Monday’s game ball goes to Lou Williams.

Lou Williams continues to provide immediate dividends following the trade deadline, and his fourth quarter scoring nearly saved the Rockets from the jaws of defeat. His scoring is exactly what the Rockets need to contend for an NBA championship but the Rockets are going to need other guys, particularly Eric Gordon, to step up on the same nights.

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