Jeremy Lin's Struggles Continue; A Look at the Houston Rockets' Season Woes & Struggles, James Harden Shooting Percentage Worsens (Photo : Reuters)
James Harden was under the weather Monday night, which certainly didn't help the Rockets in their losing cause, dropping their third straight game in a loss to the Utah Jazz 102-91 in Salt Lake City.
But it's been the Rockets that have looked rather sickly over the last nine games, seven of which they've lost this season to drop to a 4-7 season record, worst in the Southwest Division.
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Defensively, Houston has looked lethargic this season, giving up 101.7 points to opponents in their last nine games since their first loss of the season, 95-85, on Nov. 3 at home to the Portland Trail Blazers.
It's been a problem that Rockets players have noticed, but thus far have not been able to correct.
"We can't keep getting these double-digit leads in the first half and give them away," forward Chandler Parsons told NBA.com. "We've got to come out there in the third quarter with energy and not allow that."
Despite James Harden still ranking No.3 in the league in scoring with 24.3 points per game, there has been a slight tapering off in his last four games-though understandably, Monday's game should have an asterisk as he only played 17 minutes and was taken out with respiratory problems. Prior to that, Harden scored 30 in a win over New Orleans on Nov. 14, then 29 in the Nov. 16 loss to Portland and dropped to 20 points in the Lakers 119-108 thrashing of Houston on Saturday.
Part of Harden's problems of late have been his shooting percentages. While he started off strong, defenses have added more pressure on the league's newest superstar, holding him to a mere .428 field goal percentage. Compared to other elite scores such Lakers center Dwight Howard's .681 percentage, Kobe Bryant's .528 average, Miami's Lebron James (.524) and Chris Bosh (.552) and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (.511), those aren't good shooting numbers.
Other players like Omer Asik and Patrick Patterson have picked up the slack on offense to give Houston more balance on offensive duties, but Jeremy Lin's role has shifted drastically as of late.
While Lin arrived in Houston fresh off his scoring and passing barrage that fueled the New York Knicks' drive to the NBA playoffs last season, he has rapidly turned into a more pass-first oriented point guard, taking less shots in favor of more assists, dishing 6.6 per game this season to rank 13th in the league. Averaging 10.5 points per game in the last 11 Rockets contests, Lin's shooting has been dreadful, with a mere .342 percent field goal average this season.
Lin recently told the New York Times that he was enjoying the low-key nature of Houston as compared to the limelight of New York that shined brightly on him when his play last season made him the center of a media frenzy. In theory, with the pressure of the big city off of him, he should have been able to have relaxed and let loose more on offense. Instead, for any number of reasons--be it the full status of his recovery from MCL surgery or his adjustments to new teammates and a new system, certainly not helped with coach Kevin McHale recently taking a leave of absence--Lin has yet to find the touch from the field. And that's not good for the Rockets.
A lot of Houston's struggles can be expected of a new team that is still in the "getting-to-know-you" phase this early in the season, but without a quick few wins, the Rockets could end up burying themselves in an early season hole from which there might not be any escaping. The Rockets must hit the afterburners and rise to the challenge, or their promising season may fizzle out before it ever really begins.