Dismal fourth quarters are a major reason for the Houston Rockets’ problems since the All-Star break.
The Rockets try to end a three-game losing streak since the break when they meet the surging Chicago Bulls.
Houston, which won eight straight entering the break, was outscored by seven points in the pivotal fourth quarter of a 99-92 loss to Utah on Sunday. The Rockets have been outscored in the final period by an average of nine points during their skid.
“The fourth quarter is the quarter that we’re not taking very seriously,” Rockets forward Tracy McGrady said. “We’re not bringing out the energy that we should—our intensity just isn’t there.”
Houston yielded 17 offensive boards for the second time in three games. The Rockets had a season-low 31 rebounds on Sunday.
“We’re getting pounded on the boards now,” McGrady said. “The things that we were doing right before the break to win ballgames we’re not doing right now and that’s why we’re on a three-game losing streak.”
McGrady has been a part of the Rockets’ problems on the glass. The forward is averaging only 4.3 rebounds during the losing streak—nearly two below his season average.
A bright spot on Sunday was Mike James’ debut with Houston. The point guard, acquired before the trade deadline from Milwaukee, had 19 points despite three assists and four turnovers.
James likes what he sees from the Rockets, comparing the situation to when he was acquired by Detroit along with Rasheed Wallace last season.
“I see a lot (of similarity) in this team as I did in Detroit,” James said. “Everybody counted us out last year, and I remember after the trade, we lost three straight before everyone got a feel for one another.
“I see that same talent and I see that same drive here. It’s just a matter of us believing it and getting it all together.”
Chicago has won 11 of its last 12 games at home. The Bulls have won six of seven overall after a 94-90 win at Charlotte on Saturday.
The Bulls have relied on the outstanding clutch play from rookie Ben Gordon all season long. Gordon has posted 16 double-digit fourth quarters to lead the NBA and Chicago is 10-6 in those games.
Chicago continues to flourish on defense, limiting opponents to a league-low 41.9 percent from the field. The franchise record for opponents’ field goal percentage of 43.1 was set in the 1997-98 championship season—the last time the Bulls reached the playoffs.
The Bulls, who have won 12 of their last 16 games against Western Conference foes, have dropped four straight to the Rockets.