The Houston Rockets dropped their third straight game Wednesday night and head into the All-Star break on the outside of the Western Conference playoff bubble. The loss dropped them to 27-28. They didn't lose their 28th game last year until the second round of the playoffs.

Though the core roster pieces remain largely unchanged, these Rockets could hardly be more different than the 2014-15 version. Last season's Rockets blitzed opponents on both ends, competed like maniacs, and finished sixth in the league in defensive efficiency. They had backbone, surviving a cavalcade of injuries to win the Southwest Division, then clawing out of a 3-1 second-round hole to advance to the conference finals.

This year's Rockets, despite a far cleaner bill of health, look uninspired. They drag their feet when their shots don't drop or they don't get whistles. They're down to 27th in defensive rating. Head coach Kevin McHale was fired after just 11 games, but things have scarcely changed since J.B. Bickerstaff took over on an interim basis.

Bickerstaff offered a fairly straightforward diagnosis after the team's latest loss.