Few times, if ever, can I remember being truly embarrassed to be a fan of the Houston Rockets.
Tuesday night was one of those times.
Summing up energy, heart and pride, the Rockets put forth a big fat zero, getting blown out by one of NBA history's worst teams. The 2-13 Chicago Bulls used an 11-2 run early in the first quarter and never looked back, destroying the Rockets 103-75 in Chicago.
The worst-shooting team in the league (Bulls) hit at a 54% clip against the Rockets, who could manage just 40.8% themselves, but it was the inexcusable lack of effort defensively that killed the Rockets. The Bulls have never had so many open shots and never will again.
The Rockets are without Steve Francis and Maurice Taylor -- that alone tells you they have a big excuse for not being at their best. To make matters worse, Cuttino Mobley is back, but playing through pain and it was the team's 4th game in 5 nights. But all this is no excuse for the 5 guys on the floor who couldn't put a hand in Trenton Hassell's face or even remotely stay with Ron Mercer (22 points) at the presence of even the weakest screen.
Marcus Fizer (8-13, 17 points) probably thought he was back at Iowa State... facing Chatham.
Moochie Norris led the team in both points and assists -- with 12 and 5 respectively. Not in a half, for the game. Despite leading in stats, he couldn't lead the team -- the offense continues to be a disaster under his guidance.
Props to Tierre Brown and Eddie Griffin, who led a late third-early fourth quarter charge that cut a 28-point Bulls lead down to 13 in literally about 5 minutes of action.
They were in the game because Rudy T's patience finally wore thin, yanking all his starters for 5 on the bench brigade. It takes an Act of God or an injury for Rudy T to make a starting lineup change, but things need to change now. When players don't work hard, they need to be benched -- regardless of fragile psyche or fat contract.
But alas, the Rockets now are off to see the Wizards, and maybe they'll find some heart.
The Rockets jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, but then just turned in to an embarrassment. Charles Oakley started knocking down open jumpers, Greg Anthony open threes and Ron Mercer and Trenton Hassell were knocking down shots. An 11-2 run for the Bulls became a 22-9 spurt as they opened a 28-19 edge after one.
The second quarter was even worse. Chicago just ran Houston ragged as the Rockets looked completely hopeless. They literally just stood around -- no movement at all -- as the Bulls got open look after open look. A 10-2 Bulls run helped Chicago take a 40-24 lead. When Hassell banked in a 3, the lead was 45-26.
Ron Mercer hit a jumper with the shot clock expiring, then Mobley tossed up an airball, and Mercer connected again to make it 53-32. Fizer hit a baseline jumper with 1.1 seconds left in the half, giving us the disgraceful halftime score of 55-34.
The Rockets watched (literally) as the worst-shooting team in the league connected on 56% in the first half (compared to the Rockets 39%) and all Houston could manage against the worst team in the league was 34 points in the first half. Mercer (12 points) and Hassell (11 points, 5-5 shooting) led Chicago while Moochie led Houston with 12. No other Rocket had more than 4.
The Rockets cut the lead to 17 early, but it just got worse from there. Oakley, Mercer... wide open jumpers just rained down. The Rockets kept throwing up bricks. When Greg Anthony picked Moochie Norris flat out, it resulted in a wide open Trenton Hassell offensive board and slam, and when Anthony threw in a rainbow 16-footer, the lead was 72-44 with over 3 minutes to go in the third.
Rudy had enough (what took you so long?). He called timeout and yanked all his starters, putting in Eddie Griffin, Tierre Brown, Kevin Willis, Oscar Torres and Walt Williams.
Right off the bat, Torres hit a three, Brown a 19-footer and Griffin a triple (after a sweet block a Chicago possession before) and the lead was 72-52. When Tierre Brown drove and spun inside for a deuce with 2.4 seconds left in the third, the Rocket reserves had cut the lead down 10 points to 18 in just over 3 minutes. Chicago 74, Houston 56 through three.
Brown scored right off the bat, then Eddy Curry went up for a baseline power move, and Eddie Griffin just completely rejected him. Griffin then nailed a triple and the lead was down to 13, 74-61.
But the Bulls scored 5 quick points to boost the lead back to 18, and the Rockets never threatened from there. Even the "Baby Bulls", Curry and Tyson Chandler, got in dunks in the end.
A truly disgraceful and prideless performance from the Houston Rockets.