No one in and around the NBA is surprised whenever the Houston Rockets display a pronounced Jekyll-and-Hyde volatility.
Yet, even by the Rockets’ trolling and teasing standards, this past week — a seven-day stretch which started last Friday in Boston — might have been their most typically bipolar week of the season.
Wednesday night, the Rockets — fresh off a 49-point win over Memphis a few days earlier — fell far behind the Los Angeles Clippers (a team playing without Blake Griffin) and stayed there. Houston — the same team that had snapped the Boston Celtics’ 14-game home winning streak and nine-game streak with at least 100 points scored — once again became toothless at the defensive end of the floor.
Wednesday’s loss (the team is idle on Thursday) brings an end to a seven-day period which would give rollercoasters upset stomachs — it was that tumultuous and rocky.
Here are the Rockets’ last four games, folks:
Friday, March 11: at Boston, W, 102-98
Saturday, March 12: at Charlotte, L, 125-109
Monday, March 14: vs. Memphis, W, 130-81
Wednesday, March 16: vs. L.A. Clippers: L, 122-106
It makes you want to screenshot those results, frame them, and hang them in the Louvre. This is a masterpiece of madness, the incarnation of not just any inconsistency, but the erratic unpredictability that has become a Rocket trademark.
If you were to briefly sort through the Rockets’ schedule to date, you would not find a more volatile week for the NBA’s most perplexing team.
Let’s go to the slate and take some notes, keeping in mind that this will not be a prolonged and exhaustive examination of every week. This season in Houston can be summarized more quickly than you might first think.
Here’s a simple stat which jumps off the page when looking at the Rockets’ 2015-2016 platter of results to date: The Rockets — in 68 games — have recorded only 14 isolated results. When one uses the term “isolated results,” that refers to a loss or win (it doesn’t matter) which stands in isolation. In other words, it was not preceded or followed by the same result.
Just to be clear about the meaning of this, let’s use a five-game sequence as an example: “Win-Win-Loss-Win-Loss” involves two isolated results. The first loss (result number three in the sequence) and the third win (result four) are the isolated results. If the sixth game in the sequence is a win, that second loss (result five) also becomes an isolated result.
So, the Rockets have collected only 14 isolated results in 68 games. They are the kings of two- or three-game streaks, for better or worse.
The four-game sequence from the past week has already produced two isolated results: the loss in Charlotte on March 12, and the win versus Memphis on March 14. If Houston wins on Friday against Minnesota, the loss to the Clippers becomes an isolated result. The Rockets would have 15 on the season, and three — 20 percent — would have come within an eight-day span.
Here’s another basic note about the Rockets’ results to this point in the season: On only five occasions has Houston alternated results in a four-game block: W-L-W-L or L-W-L-W.
Let’s list those five sequences:
1) Dec. 21-26
Charlotte, W, 102-95; at Orlando, L, 104-101; San Antonio, W, 88-84; at New Orleans, L, 110-108
2) Feb. 10-Feb. 25 (All-Star break in the middle)
at Portland, L, 116-103; at Phoenix, W, 116-100; at Utah, L, 117-114 (OT); at Portland, W, 119-105
3) Feb. 19-Feb. 27
The Phoenix win, the Utah loss, and the Portland win above, followed by: vs. San Antonio, L, 104-94
4) Feb. 29-March 6
at Milwaukee, L, 128-121; vs. New Orleans, W, 100-95; at Chicago, L, 108-100; at Toronto, 113-107
5) March 11-16, above (Boston-Charlotte-Memphis-Clippers)
In an attempt to (try to) make sense of the Rockets’ results in these especially uneven stretches, the two most baffling back-to-back results, accounting for everything else, might be on Dec. 25 and 26. Holding the Spurs to 84 on one night and then giving up 110 to the Pelicans the next is hard to top in terms of a Game A-to-Game B reversal.
In terms of a single odd game, either the win over the Spurs or the win in Toronto might be the most aberrational result on the Rockets’ dossier this season, especially since last Friday’s win in Boston was made possible in part by the injury to Jae Crowder (third quarter). That injury, as we’ve seen in subsequent days, has noticeably limited Boston on the court.
However, in terms of a full week’s worth of results, this past week probably does finish first. You might think that the week in late December is the most “Rocket” week of the season, and you’d have a case. However, when you remember that Orlando was 17-12 at the time it beat the Rockets, that result really isn’t all that remarkable.
This past week — being THAT GOOD on defense against the Celtics before bottoming out against Charlotte; maxing out against Memphis before cratering against the Clips — takes the cake.
One last note on this past week, compared to the other four sequences noted above: From March 11-17, the Rockets’ two wins came in games when they allowed fewer than 100 points. Their two losses came in games when they allowed more than 120 points. None of the other four sequences mentioned above share that same package of characteristics.
Yes, this really was the most “Rockets” week of the season.
Given this team’s (lack of) tendencies, that’s saying something.