Rockets-Pistons Preview

The Houston Rockets opened the weekend with an embarrassing

performance against one of the NBA’s best teams.

The Detroit Pistons let one slip away against a mediocre

opponent.

Houston tries to bounce back from a 33-point defeat Saturday

night when it visits the Pistons, losers in eight of nine in the

series.

After closing November with a five-game winning streak, the

Rockets (17-10) dropped to 4-5 this month with a 114-81 rout at the

hands of Indiana on Friday. Houston, averaging 106.1 points to rank

second in the league, was limited to its lowest output of the

season.

“We had no answers for them. They just played way better than we

did,” said coach Kevin McHale, whose team was outrebounded 50-36

and outscored 18-8 in transition. “We didn’t play very well all

night. When you don’t play well that’s going to happen.”

Dwight Howard had 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, but

James Harden shot 3 of 14 and finished with 12 points – well below

his season mark of 23.9.

“We’ve got a bounce back game tomorrow in Detroit. We’ve got an

opportunity to go up there and play well against them. That’s how

we bounce back,” said Harden, whose team is 8-2 against the Eastern

Conference. “Our shots were just not going. We got good looks, but

then we’d miss a layup or turn the ball over. They are a good

defensive team, but the last several weeks we haven’t moved the

ball as well as we were, and we’ve got to keep working on

that.”

The Rockets have had their way with the Pistons (13-15) of late,

holding them to 88.2 points during a five-game winning streak in

the series. Houston is 8-1 against Detroit since the start of

2008-09.

The Pistons had won three of four before falling 116-106 to

Charlotte on Friday. Detroit went up by as many as 20 points in the

second quarter but was outscored 41-17 in the fourth.

“We just lost focus,” said Brandon Jennings, who had 26 points

and five assists. “It happened so fast, I really don’t know what to

say. It’s kind of unbelievable what just happened.”

Andre Drummond posted 14 points, 15 boards and a career

high-tying five blocks, and Josh Smith scored 18. Smith, who was at

one point rumored to join Howard in Houston this offseason, is

averaging 24.8 points and shooting 50.0 percent in the last four

games.

While the Pistons have won six of seven as the visiting team,

they have dropped nine of 13 on their own court.

“It’s just funny that we finish games better on the road than we

do at home,” Jennings said. “Usually you would think it’s the

opposite.”

Rodney Stuckey has been held out the last two games with a sore

shoulder, leaving his status for Saturday unclear. Rockets point

guard Jeremy Lin could miss a fourth consecutive contest due to

back spasms. Center Omer Asik (thigh, knee), meanwhile, didn’t

travel with the team.

Houston has given up 110.4 points per game during a 1-4 stretch

on the road. The Rockets, though, have averaged 112.8 in going 5-1

in the second of back-to-backs.