The Rockets who took the court for a 110-100 loss to the Lakers in Game 4 — a contest that was far less competitive than the final score indicated — left themselves befuddled with their poor showing in a series that Los Angeles now leads 3-1.
James Harden, who scored 21 points but shot just 2-11 from the field, said that it was a “good question” why Houston came out flat for three quarters, but stopped there before offering any depth. Russell Westbrook, who scored a team-high 25 points, said he “[didn’t] have an explanation” for why there was no “sense of urgency.” Coach Mike D’Antoni said only that there was a “lack of spirit,” minutes after loud shouting from inside Houston’s locker room could be heard in the arena’s hallway.
It’s no coincidence that the Rockets’ collapse against the Lakers has coincided with the NBA’s investigation of forward Danuel House for violating the bubble’s health and safety protocols, and center Tyson Chandler, who was initially suspected but later cleared.
House, a 27-year-old backup forward in his fourth season, did not play in Game 3 or Game 4, with the Rockets citing “personal reasons” for his first absence. While the NBA has not formally announced a ruling or even that it is investigating House, people with knowledge of the situation confirmed that House was sidelined for hosting an unauthorized guest at the Rockets’ team hotel. House has maintained his innocence, although NBA security investigators felt they had sufficient evidence to keep him out of a playoff series that was tied at one game apiece.
The Rockets were informed Tuesday — the day of their Game 3 loss to the Lakers — that Chandler and House were under investigation after the NBA discovered that a female subcontractor who worked in the bubble had passed security checkpoints and gained access to the Grand Floridian hotel on Monday night. Chandler was subsequently cleared to rejoin the team for Game 4; House was not, and he has remained confined to his hotel room this week as he awaits word from the league on his status.
There had been no indication as of Thursday night that House will cleared before Saturday’s Game 5, in which Houston faces elimination. Previous violators of the NBA’s quarantine protocol, including Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes and Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, have been required to remain quarantined for up to 10 days, which would sideline House for the duration of the series even if it went seven games.
People with knowledge of the situation, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about the ongoing investigation, said that the Rockets were “blindsided” by the NBA’s decision and that there had been little direct communication between the league office and team officials and Houston had received no formal presentation of evidence. Instead, communication continues between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
“The NBA is treating [House] as guilty until proven innocent for safety reasons,” said one person with