The Rockets Report
Another week, another 4 wins as Rockets up win streak to 13
Sometimes it’s great to be wrong. An example of that is when you end your last article trying to be as objective as possible, predict the Rockets’ winning streak will end, and they mow through a four-game work week undefeated. Those are the moments when I’m happy to admit I was mistaken.
Led by the consensus leading MVP candidate James Harden, the Rockets have now ripped off 13 straight wins while maintaining the best record in the league. If they’re able to survive Monday’s test against the Jazz, expect the streak to continue through Christmas.
Game 25: Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans (W, 130-123)
With Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis out with an injury, it looked as though the Rockets would cruise to their 10th straight victory. That was nowhere near the case, as DeMarcus Cousins and company fired out of the gate and matched the Rockets point for point. Cousins set the tone early with a stop and pop 3-pointer early in the first.
“None of this makes any sense,” My friend explained.
E’Twaun Moore scored 36, Jrue Holiday added 37, and Rajon Rondo added a vintage triple-double in what seemed to be a streak-ending Pelicans victory. Harden would have none of that, scoring 12 straight late in the fourth quarter to take the lead and seal the victory. Clint Capela scored a career high 28 points on 13 of 14 shooting. Harden would finish one assist shy of his career high with 17, to go along with 26 points and 6 steals. Eric Gordon was 5-6 from three point range, adding 27 points off the bench.
Game 26: Rockets vs Charlotte Hornets (W, 108-96)
Dwight Howard returned to the Toyota Center for the first time this season and hung 26 points and 18 rebounds on the Rockets, but a 25-0 run by Houston in the first half proved to be too much for the Hornets to recover from. In a scary moment early on, Luc Richard Mbah Moute crashed hard to the ground and left in the first half with a dislocated shoulder. Chris Paul led the Rockets with 31 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds. Clint Capela added 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. Harden finished with 21 points.
Game 27: Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs (W, 124-109)
The then 19-10 Spurs headed to Houston to take on the Rockets for the first time this season since embarrassing Harden and company in the second round of last season’s playoffs. As part of an ESPN nationally televised double-header highlighted by the return from injury of Kawhi Leonard for the Spurs, the matchup looked to be one of the toughest tests the Rockets had faced all season. This, however, was not the case at all.
The Spurs hung on throughout most of the first quarter with their trademark tenacity on defense, but it was Paul who would bust the game open in the second and never look back. The Rockets lead by 17 at the half on the way to a blowout victory that was never in jeopardy from then on. Paul would finish 5-9 from 3-point range with 28 points, 8 assists and 7 steals. Harden had 28 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds.
Game 28: Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks (W, 115-111)
After playing four games in five days the Rockets tipped off against the Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks as the second part of back-to-back games. The Rockets looked noticeably gassed, and with Capela sitting due to a heel bruise, Antetokounmpo was free to do his damage in the paint with little resistance.
Yet, even as tired and injury-riddled as they were, the Rockets would prove once again to be a hard out. The Rockets would play small for most of the game, with Ryan Anderson playing center and P.J. Tucker starting at power forward. In spite of 16 lead changes, the Rockets would finally pull away just enough early in the fourth to secure a grinder of a game. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 28 points, 5 assists, 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Harden paced the Rockets with 31 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds. Paul added 25 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Six of the eight Rockets that checked into the game scored in double figures. Anderson was shut out for the first time this season.
Saturday's win against the Bucks stretched their winning streak to 13 games, which is tied for third best in Rockets history. Their longest streak was in 2007-2008 when they went on an improbable 22-game winning streak, which is the fourth best in NBA history.
According to Basketball-Reference.com’s MVP tracker, James Harden is currently number one with a 66.2% probability of winning. The Rockets are 3-0 versus the next 4 candidate’s teams (LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant). Clint Capela currently ranks 7th on the list.
Speaking of streaks and Harden, The beard is currently has a streak of his own going. In the past 29 games dating back to last season, Harden has failed to score less than 20 points in a game. That streak is tied with Moses Malone for the best in Rockets history.
The Rockets are looking at a very soft part of their schedule with home games against the Jazz and Lakers, followed by a friday away game against the Clippers. These are all sub .500 teams, sporting a combined record of 35-50. The Utah Jazz had been showing signs of life until Rudy Gobert went down yet again, this time with a PCL injury. The last time the Jazz played in the Toyota Center, Harden scored or assisted on 91 total points, which is the third highest such output in NBA history. In the first matchup against the Lakers, the Rockets held Lonzo Ball to 2 points, 1 assist, and 2 rebounds, winning by 23. The Clippers are 11-17, going 3-6 in their last 9 contests. Friday will be their first matchup this season with the Rockets.
Until the Gobert injury, I assumed that the toughest test would be this Monday against the Jazz. As I stated above, it looks very likely that they’ll carry their winning streak into their Christmas day matchup against the Thunder.