01 Mar Gary Clark starts Rockets-Heat as injuries jumble lineup, rotation again
The Rockets’ long road to full strength ran into a ditch. After one game this season with no one out because of an injury, Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried left Wednesday’s game and were out for Thursday against the Heat with Eric Gordon also held out with a sore right knee.
Rookie Gary Clark, who had not played more than two minutes in the 14 games since Jan. 23, got his first start of the season with Gordon and Faried, who had each started two of the four games since the All-Star break, both out.
The Rockets’ initial inclination was to start Gerald Green for the first time this season, but that would have left Austin Rivers as the only guard off the bench in the second half of a back-to-back.
Beyond playing shorthanded days after they had no injuries for the first time this season, the Rockets had hoped to use the final weeks of the season to develop a consistent rotation and with it, the cohesiveness and chemistry they have often lacked while juggling lineups.
"It’s huge," Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of that goal. "We just have to keep fighting. I don’t have a solution for it. Just got to try to win games at the same time get everybody rest. It makes it a little bit more difficult. So somebody else has to step up.
"Seeding is probably more important. I think we’re probably OK because the starting group played together for a year. We’re OK there, just as long as each guy physically is in a good spot. I think as a team we’re OK."
If nothing else, the Rockets are accustomed to change. The Rockets have had 19 starting lineups this season and seven in 12 games this month.
"It has been consistent. Everybody’s been out. That’s the only thing that’s been consistent about it," D’Antoni said. "A lot of teams go through it. Some years are like that. You just have to battle through it. We’ve done a pretty good job up to now. Just have to continue and make sure we got a good spot."