The Houston Rockets Are Closing In on a Notorious NBA Record

On Friday night, the Houston Rockets lost 113-100 to the Detroit Pistons. It was the Rockets’ 29th loss of the season and their 19th consecutive loss. Their playoff hopes are non-existent. All they can hope to achieve now is to avoid setting the NBA record for most consecutive losses.

The Houston Rockets are on a horrendous losing streak

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The last Houston Rockets win came on February 4, when they beat the Memphis Grizzlies 115-103 on the road. With that win, Houston rose to an 11-10 record and still had a ghost of a chance of reaching the NBA playoffs — even two weeks after James Harden forced his way out of town. That chance has now vanished.

The Rockets have not only lost day in and day out, but they have not even been competitive. Their 19 consecutive losses have come by an average of 17 points. Even in a season where the concept of defense has ceased to exist, the Rockets stand out. They have allowed over 100 points in every single game during the stretch, and over 110 points in all but three.

It is as though they flipped a switch in February and went from a reasonably competent NBA team to one of the worst in history.

The Rockets are nine losses away from making NBA history

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As of Sunday morning, the Rockets sit at 11-29. There are 32 games remaining in the season, so there’s a slim chance that they can climb above .500 again. Unfortunately, that would require them to go at least 26-6 over their remaining games. Given the barebones lineup they’ve had to trot out lately, that doesn’t seem likely.

The only thing they have left to play for is to avoid entering the NBA record book. The Philadelphia 76ers currently hold the dubious record for the longest losing streak in all of North American professional sports, with 28 consecutive losses. They lost their final ten games of the 2014-15 season and their first 18 games of the 2015-16 season.

Fortunately, over the next few games, the Rockets have two good chances to break the losing streak. On March 26-27, they have a home-and-away set against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the one team in the NBA with a worse record.

That is, assuming they even intend to win anything. If they continue on their current course, they theoretically have a better chance in the draft lottery. The way they’ve played lately hasn’t ruled out the idea that they’re actively tanking.

What has happened to the Houston Rockets?

Houston Rockets F Jae'Sean Tate looking frustrated
Jae’Sean Tate of the Houston Rockets expresses his frustration with the situation during the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors on February 26 | Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

To what do we attribute the Houston Rockets’ losing streak? How do you explain a team going from a playoff contender to a laughingstock in the blink of an eye? Even after the Harden trade, they had players such as Victor Oladipo, John Wall, and Christian Wood. What could have gone wrong?

One word: injuries.

Throughout the losing streak, head coach Stephen Silas has not been able to play all of those All-Stars on the court at the same time. During that last win against Memphis, Wood — the team’s leading scorer — rolled his ankle, causing him to miss 17 games. Things went downhill from there.

According to the NBA’s official notes, the Rockets have used 27 different starting lineups through their first 40 games. It’s hard to formulate a game plan and work together when you don’t know who you’re passing to.