Without a doubt the Rockets sorely miss Tracy McGrady, but after watching the last two games, Rocket fans may be wondering if perhaps it runs deeper than that.
For the second straight game, the Rockets collapsed late at home against what should have been an inferior opponent. Jameer Nelson scored 8 straight points, helping the Orlando Magic to a 9-0 burst in the final 2 minutes, as the Rockets fell 76-74 in the Toyota Center Tuesday night.
The key Rocket possessions late broke down as a Derek Anderson charge, a Rafer Alston missed three, a Yao Ming missed hook in the lane and a point blank, wide open layup shank by Alston.
On the other end, the team was burned consecutive times by a penetrating Steve Francis (27 points), who kicked out to Nelson for triples, then Jameer followed that up with a runner over Yao.
In the final seconds, the boos were loud and clear.
Yes, it's only been three games ... in fact, only two without T-Mac. However, this cast we're seeing right now has zero offensive flow.
It's bad: The Rockets shooting guards, Derek Anderson and David Wesley, are hitting at a combined 23.8% clip so far this season. Wesley went 0-4 tonight, moving to 2-15 on the season and 1-10 from long range. He is starting to look like a potential midseason salary cap dump.
It's even worse: The Rockets power forwards, Juwan Howard and Stromile Swift, are shooting a combined 34.7%.
It's even worse than that: Yao seems to have caught the bug. He has missed 17 of his last 25 shots going back to the fourth quarter of the Hornets game.
This is such a different team than the one we saw in the playoffs last season. In fact, the only significant contributors out there right now from last year are Yao, Wesley and Jon Barry (Dikembe Mutombo hasn't seen more than 12 minutes in a game yet and Juwan Howard was out of action for some time).
So I'll grant you that many of these guys don't seem to know each other on the floor well enough yet or are still learning the system, and that is part of the problem. Still, it shouldn't keep Rafer from bricking a gimme layin.
Is this just a small sample size with fluky low numbers? That's certainly the hope, because as great of a player as T-Mac is, this Rocket team should be much, much better than this even without him.
But it could get worse before it gets better. Of the 15 matchups this month, almost all of them are brutal and only three were considered gimmes... and the team just blew two of them.