Rockets' loss to Heat raises questions about depth at guard

HOUSTON -- Mike D'Antoni was pretty realistic regarding the Houston Rockets' 117-109 loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

"Energy was dead in the arena and we were dead," he said.

He also noted of the loss, "we'll have clunkers, and that was a clunker."

The reality is that the Rockets' 18th loss of the season isn't that big of a deal, especially when you consider the team has 40 wins and maintains the third seed in the Western Conference. What is important, though, is starting guard Patrick Beverley's departure.

Beverley suffered a left groin strain in the second quarter and sat out the second half. D'Antoni said he hoped Beverley would be OK once the Rockets return from the All-Star break next week. Losing Beverley didn't cost the Rockets this game -- low energy did -- but not having him for a long period going forward would expose the backcourt's lack of depth.

As the Rockets move toward the Feb. 23 trade deadline, general manager Daryl Morey must decide if someone is out there who can help them in a late-season push. Finding a big man, or stretch 4, doesn't seem to help matters for the Rockets. Having a guard to take the pressure off of James Harden as the ball handler does, and having a healthy Beverley would help.

Harden played 42 minutes Wednesday in recording his 15th triple-double of the season. He scored 38 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had 12 assists. D'Antoni gambled by keeping him in the game with five fouls instead of giving him early rest in the fourth quarter, as Harden remained on the floor for all but 10 seconds of the final period.

With Beverley gone, D'Antoni used Harden with Corey Brewer in the backcourt as the Rockets tried to claw their way back in a game they never led.

D'Antoni doesn't trust guard Tyler Ennis, a player the Rockets acquired before the season, for extended minutes. D'Antoni inserted Brewer over Ennis to start the second half, which wasn't a surprise given the intangibles Brewer brings.

So as Beverley heals from his injury, Morey must decide if another guard is worth adding to this group.

"We have great chemistry in the locker room," D'Antoni said before the game regarding possible trades. "We got enough to win. I'm sure Daryl will be diligent as every general manager has to; answer the phone and talk, that's their job. I'm real happy with our group. We got a good group of guys. It's been fun, a lot of fun, to coach them."

Beverley could return healthy enough to play in the first game after the All-Star break, Feb. 25 at New Orleans. But there's cause for concern if he's not ready, as Houston went 6-5 earlier this season when Beverley was recovering from minor knee surgery. The Rockets went 17-4 after he returned.

They can't afford to lose him again, and if that's the case, an adequate replacement might be needed.

Houston has played so well this season, moving into elite status in the league despite injuries to not only Beverley, but Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. Harden has played at a MVP level and taken the lead for that award in the minds of some. Added depth at guard would help, especially if Beverley is lost. Can the addition of another guard help push the Rockets past the Spurs and Warriors in the West?

Houston's overall record, which includes a victory each over San Antonio and Golden State, puts it in position to bolster its roster.

"It's pretty good," Harden said of the first half of the season. "Third-best record in the league, pretty good. Could be better and it needs to get better."