Rockets hope to climb out of hole vs. Nets

NEW YORK — Last year all systems were working for the Houston Rockets as they won a team-record 65 games and reached the Western Conference finals for the third time four seasons. So far, nothing is working for the struggling Rockets, who are off to the second-worst start in team history.

The slow start is among the NBA’s most shocking storylines in the first two weeks and the Rockets hope to begin climbing out of it Friday night when open a season-high five-game road trip by visiting the Brooklyn Nets.

Houston is off to its first 1-5 start since 2010-11 when it won 43 games. It is the fifth time the Rockets opened a season at 1-5 or worse as it also occurred in 1999-00, 1982-83 and 1972-73.

The Rockets played the last two games without James Harden due to a strained left hamstring and although he practiced Thursday, he is doubtful for Friday and hopes to return Saturday in Chicago. Harden is averaging 28.5 points on 46.8 percent shooting after winning the scoring title last season.

The Rockets have lost their five games by an average of 14.4 points. They also have trailed by at least 20 points for 39:10 after trailing by at least 20 points in a league-low 12:51 last season.

“Last year, we played well. Right now, we’re playing like (garbage),” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ll look. We’ll fight it. Not making shots, not making foul shots, not making layups.”

Houston’s latest loss was a 104-85 home defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers when it trailed by as many as 28 points. Houston shot 27.1 percent in the first half and fell behind by 22 in the final 6 1/2 minutes before halftime.

Over the past three games, the Rockets are averaging 95.7 points after averaging 116 in the first three games of the season. Houston also has allowed 50 points in the first half of each game and 60 before halftime twice so far while shooting.

“The games we’re losing, once it goes bad, it goes bad,” Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We have to change that. We have to have some sustainability out there. We have to have some force and some fight.”

Overall, Houston shot 32.9 percent as Anthony, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon were a combined 12 of 49. The Rockets are shooting 41.2 percent from the field and making just 33.3 percent of their 3-pointers, figures that are amongst the lowest in the league.

Paul, Anthony and Gordon are also shooting under 40 percent so far. Paul is at 39.3 percent (24-of-61), Anthony is at 37.3 percent (28-of-75) while Gordon is shooting 30.6 percent (30-of-98).

“This is a different team than last year,” Gordon said. “Last season, from the start, we could tell how good we were going to be. Now, we’re in a figuring-it-out kind of mode.”

The Nets are off to a 3-5 start and are trying to get consecutive wins for the first time this season.

Brooklyn halted a three-game losing streak by getting a 120-119 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored all of his 25 points after halftime and came up with three clutch plays. He hit the game-tying three-pointer in regulation, the game-winning three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left in overtime and denied Blake Griffin’s attempt at winning the game.

“That was the thing that made this win really big for us — the losing streak,” Dinwiddie said. “We’re trying to be a good team and change the tide of Nets teams of the past. You’ve got to learn how to get out of a rut quickly.”

Before Dinwiddie’s clutch plays, the Nets dropped two close games to New Orleans and Golden State before getting blown out at New York on Monday. They held a 15-point lead in the first half before falling behind by 10 points in the second half.

“It’s huge for us in terms of maturation,” Brooklyn’s Joe Harris said after adding 23 points. “We’ve been through this experience a lot. We had a lot of close games last season, and a lot of close ones this year. Being able to close it out is big for morale and confidence going forward.”

So far, the Nets are 2-2 in games decided by five points or less. Last season they were 12-15.

Houston has won the last four meetings, six of the last nine and 19 of the last 22.