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Rockets' offense needs James Harden, Ty Lawson to mesh

HOUSTON – Coming off a difficult loss to the then-winless Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, the Houston Rockets tried to regroup at Thursday’s practice.

Grumpy was the general feeling.

After a four-game win streak was snapped, the problems that hampered this team during a 0-3 start returned in the loss to the Nets.

The offense and defense struggled.

But offense is what drives the Rockets, and when you’re shooting just 28.4 percent from 3-point range, tied for 28th in the league after eight games, you have problems.

It starts with point guard Ty Lawson and shooting guard James Harden, who still are learning about each other. However, despite only eight games into a season where the Rockets have made numerous adjustments due to injuries, this team should be further along by now.

Shouldn’t it?

“Why?” Harden asked.

The Rockets have two veteran players in the backcourt, so …

“We’re both really good players,” James said. “I look at when LeBron [James)]went to Cleveland with Kyrie [Irving] they didn’t mesh right away. It takes time. I’m not worried about that.”

Wednesday night, coach Kevin McHale was worried and still felt that way the next day.

Asked if he was surprised at the lack of chemistry between his guards, McHale was pretty direct.

“Again, I don’t know about surprising,” he said. “We have to get better. Both of those guys have to play better. They have to play better defense, they have to rebound, keep people out of the middle, it’s just not them, it's a multitude of people.”

Harden is getting more uncontested looks (12-for-29 last three games) than normal and that has been an adjustment for him. At times, Harden will defer to Lawson so he can create something.

Lawson is getting used to playing off the ball after controlling it so much when he played in Denver. Harden is sixth in the league with a touch rate of 88.6 percent, compared to Lawson’s 71.8 percent.

“It’s getting better,” Lawson said. “He’s been playing a certain way for three or four years and I have played a certain way for three or four years when I was in Denver. We have to figure each other out and it’s not going to happen overnight. We have to have conversations and watch a lot of film, which I did [Wednesday] to see where I can improve.”

Both players are getting more catch-and-shoot chances, which are failing the Rockets. The Rockets have made just 33 percent of their catch-and-shoot opportunities, 28th in the league.

Picking up the pace is also a problem for the Rockets. While the Rockets are second in the league with an 18.4 percent frequency rate when taking shots within 18-22 seconds of the shot clock, this team is 25th in converting those opportunities at 46.5 percent.

Yet, the Rockets will tell you the season is still so young. Just eight games. Not enough of a sample size to tell if you’re going to make the postseason.

The record is 4-4. The consistency is still there.

Maybe Harden has the right approach, the only approach to have.

“We’re very confident,” he said.