Given the results of the prior 10 games, it was difficult to determine if the Houston Rockets had already hit rock bottom during a losing skid that matched the longest in the NBA this season.
At Toyota Center on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, the lowly Rockets found a new low, falling 133-84 as Memphis set franchise records for bench points (85) and for margin of victory.
"I hope so. Hope so," Rockets first-year coach Stephen Silas said when asked if Houston had indeed bottomed out with its 11th consecutive defeat. "This is embarrassing."
While the Rockets, who will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday at Toyota Center, have embarrassed themselves on several fronts, their woeful perimeter shooting continues to serve as their most glaring weakness. Houston entered Sunday ranked last in the NBA in 3-point percentage and lived down to that billing, missing 41 of 45 3-pointers for an astonishing 8.9 percent.
At 32 games, the sample size is large enough to conclude that Houston is indeed an awful 3-point shooting outfit. But during their 136-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 1, the Rockets set a franchise record with 28 3s. That performance, while aberrant, showcased their potential and underscored that their current stretch of shooting might be equally unusual.
Houston is shooting 28.2 percent from deep over the 13 games since that victory over the Thunder.
"The missing of shots is really plaguing us this season," Silas said. "To go 4 for 45 from 3 is like, there's not a word for it.
"I told the guys after the game that they're tight. They want it so bad. You don't miss this many shots without having some sort of tightness in your emotions, your body ... because you want to make it so bad. And the belief that I have in this group doesn't waver, hasn't wavered. And that's what I told them. We have an opportunity to rectify it against Cleveland. The shot stuff is hard."
It was the Cavaliers who set the previous mark for the longest skid in the NBA prior to their 112-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 23. The following night they beat Houston and then extended their winning streak to three by upsetting the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime on Saturday.
The triumph marked just the fourth on the road this season for Cleveland and the first since Jan. 7. The Cavaliers, after struggling throughout their losing streak, seem to have found an identity.
Collin Sexton posted his eighth consecutive 20-point game with a team-high 28 points against the Sixers while second-year guard Darius Garland came alive late and scored 11 of his 25 points in overtime.
Rookie guard Isaac Okoro produced a career-best 15 points with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals while center Jarrett Allen, the focal point in the Cavaliers' victory over Houston last week, recorded his seventh consecutive double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Suddenly, the Cavaliers have the confidence to match their moxie. The results are irrefutable.
"We know what we can do. We're all confident in ourselves," Sexton said. "We know we should have a better record. Now it's just time to string wins along.
"At the end of the day, they tie their shoes up just like us, they go out there and play. And no matter what, when we go to battle and we do what we have to do, I feel like we're capable of beating anybody."
--Field Level Media