Dwight Howard's return to Los Angeles did not quite go according to plan. After being thumped by the Clippers on Monday, the Houston Rockets will need to shake off the loss and move on as they travel to Portland to face off against the Trail Blazers.
The Clippers mauled the Rockets at the Staples Center, with Howard, who spent a forgettable year with the LA Lakers last season, and the rest of Houston's players unable to stop LA from scoring at will in a 137-118 loss.
That game, against a definite playoff rival, showed the Rockets are still a work in progress and coach Kevin McHale needs to find a way to orchestrate defensive cohesiveness in the side.
The Rockets are looking OK on the offensive side -- even if there is plenty of work to be done there - but the defence remains a concern. "They had 15 3s and a ton of paint points, so they had the best of both worlds," McHale said of the loss to the Clippers. "They just did whatever they wanted. We just couldn't stop them."
Howard struggled against the Clippers, managing just 13 points and nine rebounds in a high-scoring game, but McHale is confident there will not be a Lakers-like breakdown from the former Orlando Magic man this season.
"His health is 100 percent different," McHale said. "When we did a physical after we signed him, I sat down with our training staff and they were all like, 'Oh boy.' He had a huge discrepancy in his strength in his right leg and his left leg. His glutes and his hamstrings were really weak and his flexibility was completely ... funky.
"He really spent a lot of time this summer getting right. He's getting closer."
Howard agrees with McHale and feels he is in much better shape compared to last season, when he averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds. "I'm moving a lot better," he said. "I'm going to get balls that I couldn't get last season. Rebounds, blocked shots, all that stuff is a lot different. I've been doing a lot of work in the offseason just to get my body back right. I feel a lot better."
The Rockets, 3-1, will need Howard to be at his dominant best on both sides of the floor if they are to pick up their fourth win of the season against the Blazers, who are on a high after their impressive victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Where to watch
The game is scheduled for an 8.30 am IST start on Wednesday morning with no live coverage.