CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rockets guard Aaron Brooks looked at the collection of recorders in front of him and felt it might be better if he was one of them, able to just hit a play button on the side of his head and skip the recording step.
Somewhere on those recorders, there were answers to explain the Rockets’ second-half meltdown and 102-94 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats before 11,463 Tuesday night in Time Warner Cable Arena.
There would not even be a need to hold the rewind button for long to find an answer as suitable for Tuesday’s loss as for so many others, including some in the Rockets’ five-game road losing streak.
“I feel like a tape recorder; I keep saying the same thing,” Brooks said. “Watching the (video) tape here, we’re not moving at all. We’re jogging up and down the court. When they pick up their defense, we have to pick up our offense. We have to run. We have to go through cuts. We didn’t do that.
“It’s frustrating. I can’t point the finger at anybody. I’m watching myself. When you’re out there, it feels different. Watching on tape, it looks very bad. You’re not going to win too many games like that.”
Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson torched the Rockets for a career-high and franchise-record 43 points. A 41 percent shooter this season, he made 15 of 22 shots. Hitting 30.5 percent of his 3-pointers on the season, he made 3 of 5 from beyond the arc Tuesday.
On fire from everywhere
Even at the line, where he has long been a reliable shooter and is making 80.3 percent this season, he was better than usual, making 10 of 11 attempts.
“He hurt us,” said Rockets guard Trevor Ariza, who took turns with Shane Battier and briefly Chase Budinger on Jackson. “He’s a really good player. Once he got it going, we didn’t find a way to slow him down.”
That, however, was not what bothered the Rockets most. In the same split personality game, they again showed they can be surprisingly effective offensively but were also the offensively-challenged team they were expected to be without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
When the Rockets took care of the ball and moved quickly in the halfcourt and on the break, they led by as much as 13, hitting 51.1 percent of their shots in the first half, 58.3 percent from beyond the arc.
When the Bobcats turned up their defense, with Jackson’s scoring adding the pressure of a Charlotte comeback, the Rockets increasingly stood around, taking turns going one-on-one.
“We didn’t move the ball, they got more aggressive, denied more, put more pressure on us and we kind of caved into it,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “They got some momentum going. It’s like playing any team at home. They get momentum going and start making shots, and we couldn’t respond to it. It was a lot what they did and a lot what we did.
“We have to have better movement. It started in the third quarter. Guys were trying to do things that aren’t their strengths.”
The Rockets made just 30.8 percent of their shots in the second half, going only 3- of-18 on 3s. After committing just two turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game, they had three in the final four minutes of the first half, and 11 more in the second half.
Brooks couldn’t finish drives, making 3 of 14 shots. Carl Landry was held to 10 points. Ariza and Shane Battier combined to make 2 of 11 shots in the second half. The Rockets’ 17 fourth-quarter points were their fewest in the final quarter this season. Their 34 second-half points matched the 34 they put up in the first quarter when they were clicking enough to think they would cruise the rest of the way.
“It’s frustrating that we go up and down, don’t do what we’re supposed to,” said Ariza, who led the Rockets with 19 points but had just three in the second half. “It changes. That’s another thing with having a young team we’re going to have to figure out, how to keep it going, no matter what the situation is. Find ways to score. That’s what we’re struggling with.”
Worse, they knew they had said that often but hit rewind to the same mistakes that beat them before.