The Houston Rockets are searching for answers both on and off the court, one loss away from elimination and unaware if an important bench player will be available for Game 5 of their second-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Danuel House has been ruled out of each of the last two games. The NBA is investigating whether House allowed a female coronavirus testing official into his hotel room, which would be a violation of protocols, Yahoo Sports first reported.
House has reportedly denied the allegations, and the Rockets have felt blindsided by the league’s decision to keep him off the court, according to The Washington Post.
“The NBA is treating [House] as guilty until proven innocent for safety reasons,” a person with knowledge of the situation told the Post. “They’re prioritizing their perception of safety over everything else. The NBPA feels its hands are tied. Any time [the union] talks about due process or presumption of guilt, [the NBA] immediately says, ‘Safety, safety, safety.’ There has to be some limit or balance.”
No player or coach has tested positive for the coronavirus since games restarted in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Florida on July 30. While a handful of players were forced to quarantine after violating protocols earlier this summer, a person close to House told the Post that the NBA is making an example out of the Rockets’ player.
“If it was a star player, there’s no way [the NBA] would handle it this way,” the person close to House with direct knowledge of the investigation said.
House went scoreless in Houston’s Game 1 victory over Los Angeles. He was effective in Game 2, posting 13 points and five rebounds in a 117-109 defeat.
The Lakers defeated the Rockets by 10 points in both Game 3 and Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. The two teams square off Saturday night with Houston needing a victory in order to keep its season alive.
Arguably the Rockets’ most effective reserve this postseason, House is sixth on the team in both points (11.4) and minutes (31.0) per game. The small forward is third on Houston with 5.8 rebounds per contest. House has made 35.8% of his 53 three-point attempts in the playoffs.
“I think [House] is blossoming into one of the better players in the league,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said Monday. “He’s playing with a lot of energy, athletically, making great decisions on defense and offense. … There’s no reason why he’s not one of the better players in the league.”
Thank goodness for all these lucky breaks. The plucky, underdog Lakers never could have beaten this team without the NBA's help in eliminating future Hall of Famer Danuel House. Thank you @adamsilver https://t.co/FQqBdS8bIF
— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) September 11, 2020
The Rockets haven’t publicly blamed the investigation into House for their poor play, though Houston hasn’t been shy about trying to excuse recent playoff exits.
After losing to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, the organization sent a memo to the league that said the referees likely cost them a shot at winning the championship. A loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of last year’s second-round series prompted some Houston players to indicate the officials were treating them unfairly.
Los Angeles started the second-round series as a significant favorite to defeat Houston. House’s absence has hurt the Rockets, though Houston hasn’t gotten enough from its superstars.
James Harden had more turnovers (five) than field goals made (two) in Thursday’s Game 4 loss. Russell Westbrook was the culprit in Game 2, scoring 10 points and committing seven turnovers while shooting 4-15 from the field.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are averaging a combined 53.5 points and 23.1 rebounds per game. The NBA’s top duo is shooting 56.6% from the field against Houston.