Losing to the World Champion Pistons you can understand, but not looking impressive in Toronto is a little harder to take.
The new-look Rockets have started out too similar to the old-look Magic, falling to 0-2 on the young season after a 95-88 loss in Toronto to the Raptors.
Chris Bosh hit 8-12 shots to lead Toronto with 20 points, while Rafer Alston (15 points, 8 assist, 7 boards), Vince Carter (16 points, 6 assists) and Jalen Rose (17 points) all did big damage.
Tracy McGrady did not shoot incredibly well (6-14), but did lead Houston in both points (21) and assists (5).
Yao Ming finished with 17 points and 9 boards, but really got worked by Loren Woods at times, and late in the game seemed to be a turnover waiting to happen (6 in all).
The loss, the second in as many days, coupled with Steve Francis' heroics in Orlando (26 points, 9 boards, 7 assists and the game-wining layin at the buzzer), has many NBA analysts are already scoffing at the Rockets. Lifeless, lacking leadership and energy, traded away their heart ... they're pouncing.
While I think these are overreactions being that it's still very early to jump to such conclusions, there are some reasons for concern:
- First and foremost, the defense is getting exposed. They are definitely missing Kelvin Cato here, and possibly Cuttino Mobley. Steals and blocks are down. Last season the Rockets held opponents to roughly 41% shooting. The first two games of 2004-2005 has opponents hitting 45%.
- The offense may be more lifeless. McGrady, who has averaged over the last 4 seasons over 28 points a night on just under 45% shooting, is hitting at a 37% clip for 19 a night. He either isn't finding his shot, or it's not falling ... yet. Yao isn't picking up the slack either, scoring just 12 points on less than 40%. We're looking at you here, Mr. Van Gundy.
- While I still believe Francis was a poor "point" guard for this offense, he might be better than no point guard, which is what we currently have. Charlie Ward may still step up, but from a playmaking standpoint, the deadly duo of Ward and Tyronn Lue is looking more fatal to us than opponents.
- Of the first 7 games of the season, the Raptors game was the only easy one.
I'm eagerly anticipating the next game -- Friday in Memphis -- because the statistical sample size is way too small to make any real conclusions, but the early results aren't great.
On a closing note, I was happy to see Juwan Howard come off the bench to hit all 5 of his shots in just 18 minutes of action. I'm still not sure why he's nailed to the pine come tipoff, but trusting JVG on this one.
Clutch can be reached at email@example.com and also can be followed on Twitter