Rockets attempt to find themselves again vs. Magic

Throughout a spate of early-season losses that resulted in a 1-9 record, Houston coach Stephen Silas expressed unwavering support for the Rockets’ will to win.

Despite entering their 15th game on the schedule with only two wins, the Rockets had shown a moxie that didn’t match their record. Rarely did they relent to the numerous setbacks, and ultimately their effort yielded the sort of results Silas had longed to witness.

But in the fifth game of a seven-game homestand that continues on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, the Rockets succumbed to discouragement.

For a second consecutive game, they shot miserably from the perimeter, and when the San Antonio Spurs seemingly did not miss from behind the 3-point line on Monday, Houston cratered in the second half of a 124-105 loss.

“A lot of it was (reacting) to the adversity,” Silas said. “We got down on ourselves when we were missing shots and as a result, we let go of the rope a little bit, and that was disappointing.”

The Rockets missed 26 of 29 3-pointers in a 12-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. They followed that woeful shooting display by misfiring on 19 of 24 3-pointers against the Spurs, who conversely shot a scorching 17 of 34 from behind the arc. Outflanked and frustrated, the Rockets wilted and reverted to a submissive form rarely seen this season.

With only two games remaining on a homestand they hoped would set them on a positive path heading into the new year, the Rockets must uncover a means to rebuild their broken shots and collective spirit.

“We’ve been here before where we just haven’t made shots and it’s affected a lot, the last two games especially,” Silas said. “We have to continue to work, continue to trust that when we create good shots for our teammates, those shots will eventually go in. If we’re playing basketball the right way we’ll be rewarded.

“But we can’t allow that (poor shooting) affect our mood, our spirit and our defensive intensity.”

One of the Rockets’ two victories in the first month of the season came against the Magic, who have righted their own ship recently. Dejounte Murray had to make two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift the Atlanta Hawks to a 126-125 win on Monday that halted a six-game winning streak for Orlando.

The injury-riddled Magic have found their footing despite a rotation continually compromised by absences, with Wendell Carter Jr. (foot) and Jalen Suggs (ankle) the latest starters to be sidelined. Orlando has been bolstered by the return of Markelle Fultz, who is averaging 11.6 points and 5.1 assists since joining to rotation 11 games ago, and the emergence of Moritz Wagner, who has averaged 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds while starting the last 10 contests.

Of the nine players averaging double figures in scoring for Orlando, three are currently unavailable, with Gary Harris part of the mix. Yet the Magic have found a way to press forward.

“We talk about their poise, their energy, their effort, their togetherness — I think that was big down the stretch for us,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I’m still proud of our guys for how we battled (and) gave ourselves a chance to win the game at the end of the game.”

–Field Level Media