Confetti fell from the ceiling of Oracle Arena on Wednesday night as the Golden State Warriors celebrated a first round ousting of the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets weren’t around to see the show. They had all sprinted off the floor as quickly as possible as they packed their bags for a long summer of reflection. This team wasn’t supposed to be an eight seed and in the end, they were lucky just to squeak into the postseason.
The drubbing they took at the hands of the Warriors was embarrassing. But there is nowhere to hide in the NBA.
“It sucks, we got our a-- beat,” an honest Patrick Beverley told reporters.
The mood was somber, or maybe it was relief. All-Star guard James Harden stood in and said all the right things, but his 35 point effort was 33 less than his team needed.
With all cameras focused directly at him, the leagues best isolation player somehow looked out of his element.
Veteran Jason Terry, who had guaranteed victory earlier in the day, had a second helping of humble pie. He was very clear that he meant no disrespect to the Warriors and that he was only trying to motivated his own team. Whatever the reasoning for his blackboard material, it failed - in fact, it backfired.
The 38-year-old guard went scoreless in 22 minutes, missing all seven of his shots. He was adamant that he wants to play one more season in the league, but whether that is with the Rockets or not is a completely different question.
There was no reaching this team. Not even for Terry who has seen almost everything in his 17 seasons in the NBA. Chemistry was a huge issue all season long. It cost Kevin McHale his job after just 11 games and interim J.B. Bickerstaff fared no better.
Something went sour with this group and it didn’t matter how much talent they had, they weren’t going to make it through the first round.
“You don’t become a very good team or a great team if you don’t do it every single day,” Bickerstaff said in his post game press conference. “Riding the roller coaster that we rode this year is not how you find consistency.”
Is it time to blow up the Rockets? That will happen organically. Change is inevitable.
“We really have to sit down and evaluate ourselves and look in the mirror and see what we did and how we can be better moving forward,” big man Dwight Howard said.
The seven-footer has an option for next season for over $23 million, but it is widely expected that he will opt out and look for one more long-term deal this summer. Very likely that will come from a new team.
Howard may not have had the best game, but he certainly didn’t cash it in. In fact, he played until the final whistle in a 33-point loss, logging 45 minutes for the Rockets in defeat.
“I just wanted to go out there and play as hard as I can for as long as I can,” Howard said.
In the end, the Rockets were up against the Champs and it didn’t matter how well Harden or Howard or anyone else on their roster played. They’re lack of consistency throughout the regular season pitted them against a 73 win team on a mission.
“We got beat by a better team,” Bickerstaff said. “To be disappointed, I would have to think those guys quit and I don’t think our guys ever quit. As hard as things got this year, as hard as things got versus this team we battled back.”
It’s hard to put a finger on where it all went south for the Rockets, but facing Golden State in the first round, even without Stephen Curry, exposed every weakness they had. It’s back to the drawing board in Houston where massive changes are expected this summer.