Through 96 minutes of basketball this season, the Houston Rockets are still searching for an identity.
Tough back-to-back road games to open the new year has left them with a 1-1 record, with a loss at Portland and a win the following night at Golden State.
In each of the two games, it's been a "tale of two halves" for Houston.
Tuesday night against the Blazers, the Rockets trailed by 13 at the half, and trailed the Warriors by 10 at the break the following night.
Then, after halftime of each game, the Rockets looked like a completely different team.
They looked much more like the team that won two of the final four games against the eventual champion Lakers in last year's conference semis.
Although they couldn't completely overcome the deficit against the Blazers, the Rockets fought until the final buzzer and ended up losing the game by nine.
All night long, the Rockets were able to fluster the Blazers with aggressive defense and forced Portland to commit 26 turnovers.
The Rockets' main issue against the Blazers was the massive size discrepancy.
The Blazers outrebounded the Rockets, 51-33, and blocked 12 shots.
These undersized Rockets will clearly struggle mightily against teams with good size.
Portland's Travis Outlaw was virtually unstoppable off the bench, pouring in 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting on a series of stop-and-pops that ultimately killed Houston.
The next night in Oakland, the Rockets were able to run neck-and-neck with the young Warriors until the final four minutes of the first half— when the Warriors used an 8-0 run to take a 62-52 lead into halftime.
The Rockets that came out of the locker room didn't look anything like the ones that went in.
Houston surged to begin the third, making its first 11 shots of the quarter, while the defense kept Golden State in check.
Monta Ellis, who grilled Houston for 17 first half points, was held to just nine in the second.
In the second half, the Rockets played their game, and took control up until the final buzzer, when Stephen Curry laid in a meaningless bucket off the missed game-tying three-point attempt by Anthony Morrow.
The main question for the Rockets has to be: Will they be able to consistently play 48 minutes of "their game?"
Trevor Ariza, who came to Houston from the champion Lakers over the summer, has already looked like a much different player than we've seen in the past.
Rockets' coach Rick Adelman is asking more of Ariza on the offensive end of the floor than Phil Jackson did in L.A., and the young forward has responded well so far.
Against the Warriors, Ariza led the Rockets with 25 points, including 4-for-9 from three-point range.
Will he be capable of being the offensive go-to guy all year, or is he just off to a hot start?
Will Houston have enough firepower to stay with those teams?
If they can maintain their focus the way they have in the second halves of each of the two games so far, they should be able to compete at a high level.
With players like Chuck Hayes and Shane Battier leading the way, there's no doubt these Rockets will play hard.
They've shown so far what they're capable of in various spurts, but the key for Houston will be whether or not they can keep it up for an extended period of time.
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