For the Richmond Rockets, it was a game of two halves.
And a Richmond audience of roughly 800 people did not want to believe the second half Friday night: the Rockets led by 20 points for most of the first half, and kept the lead for most of the second half. But for the last five minutes, the San Francisco Rumble controlled the game to defeat the Rockets 107-97.
“We just didn’t play well in the second half,” Coach Lamar Baker said. “You just have to tip your hat to the Rumble.”
The Rockets were led by Lindsey Hughey with 17 points and Justin Baker with 16.
Before the game, Baker was clear about what his team needed to do.
“Two things,” he said. “We have to defend well, and we have to play with poise.”
The Rockets did both in the first half.
Five minutes into the game, Robin Hood’s dramatic hook shot and Justin Baker’s 3-pointer gave the Rockets an 11-5 lead and started a Rockets show. With 7:27 remaining in the first period, Hood drove the ball upcourt off a Rumble turnover and dished an alley-oop pass to Joel Smith. The crowd erupted as Smith slammed it in, chanting, “Rich-mond Rock-ets!”
For the next four minutes, the Rumble did not have a single shot as the Rockets finished the first period with a 38-18 lead.
The Rockets maintained the pace, culminating in a monster dunk by Joel Smith that sent the crowd into frenzy with 2:46 remaining in the half. The Rockets took a 59-45 lead into the locker room at halftime.
At the break, Baker was not pleased with the seven turnovers the team had and exhorted them to improve in the second half.
“Our fans deserve a better game,” Baker said.
The second half, though, seemed to confirm the problem Baker had highlighted.
The Rockets had several turnovers at the start of the half, allowing the Rumble to narrow the lead to 59-54 six minutes into the third period.
Coach Baker called a time out, but he could not stop the Rumble stealing from the Rockets, especially in the key.
The second half also saw a high foul rate: the Rockets had 13 fouls, and the Rumble had 16. But the Rumble capitalized on their trips to the line with a higher free throw percentage.
The Rockets had even more turnovers in the final period, and the Rumble – just like the Rockets in the first half – gained most of their points off fast breaks and counterattacks.
After the Rumble’s Derek Foster swished a 3-pointer for a 92-90 lead with just under five minutes to go, a frustrated Baker called another time out to try and settle his team.
Coming out of the time out Hughey tied the game at 92 with a lay-up on a slashing drive to the hoop.
But the last five minutes were a nightmare for the Rockets. The team seemed to lose patience, tossing up wild 3-pointers instead of breaking into the paint. The failed long shots gave the Rumble more opportunities to rebound and counterattack.
The Rockets did not make a field goal for the final four minutes, and the Rockets missed four consecutive shots in the final minute. The final score was 107-97.
On his way back to the locker room, Richmond Rockets player Robin Hood threw his jacket to the floor.
“We should have won!” one young fan said to Hood, who did not reply.
After the game, Baker asked the players not to make excuses. “We didn’t do nothing in the second half,” Baker said. “Nobody is tired, nobody should be tired.”
The loss was the Rockets’ first of the year, dropping their record to 2-1.
– Richmond Confidential reporter Robert Rogers contributed to this article.