Rockets Report

Harden powers Rockets to undefeated week

James Harden averaged 37 points per game last week. Houston Rockets/Facebook

Another week into the season and the Houston Rockets continued to remain an undefinable enigma. After finishing winless against teams with losing records two weeks ago, the Rockets followed that up with an undefeated week against quality playoff level competition. The three-game win streak returned Houston to an even .500 record at 14-14. Houston remains last in the Southwest Division, but have moved up to 12th in the Western Conference overall.

Tuesday night Houston hosted the Trail Blazers looking to make up for the blowout loss Portland handed them earlier in the season. Portland jumped out early, leading by as much as 12 in the first quarter, but Houston would close the gap to keep the game close through the half. It remained a back and forth match until Houston's bench ignited a 25-5 run near the end of the third to effectively put the game away. James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, and--despite an awful shooting night--Chris Paul ended the night with an 11 point, 10 assistance, 11 rebound triple-double.

Houston followed Tuesday night's much needed win with slug fest victory against LeBron James and the Lakers. In a battle that featured two of the games best players, Harden would come away the victor behind a 50-point, 11 assist, 10 rebound triple-double.

Saturday night Houston took on the Memphis Grizzlies in a quick road trip game. As the Rockets had begun to pick up steam it seemed like a matchup against the 16-12 Grizzlies would serve as stiff competition. The game itself was anything but, and a poor shooting first half from Memphis proved too difficult to recover from as Houston remained in command throughout. A late push from the Grizzlies would narrow what was at one point a 27-point lead, but Houston would hold on thanks to a 32 point, 10 assist, 12 rebound performance from Harden.

The Week of The Beard

In spite of Houston's overall record, Harden continues to perform at the same high level that earned him last season's MVP nod. Harden ended the week with two straight triple-doubles and his 50-point triple-double--the fourth such of his career--became a new NBA record. Harden finished the week averaging 37 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.6 rebounds during their current win streak.

Bench Bolstered

The past two weeks have seen several key players return from injury. Last week was center Nene, who stepped in and immediately contributed big minutes. Wednesday marked the debut of Brandon Knight, an offseason acquisition from Phoenix who had yet to play an NBA game since suffering an ACL injury on February 17, 2017. Prior to the injury, Knight was a capable scorer, averaging 15.2 points and 4.3 assists over six seasons. The Rockets will bring him into the fold slowly, and if he can regain that scoring ability expect to see a healthy share of minutes headed Knight's way.

R-E-L-A-X

The sirens have been going off throughout Houston concerning the Rockets' sub .500 record up until last night. It's true that Houston is dead last in their division. They're 12th in the Western Conference. It doesn't sound great, but luckily parity has been the theme of the season. As a result, the Rockets are only 1.5 games back in the division and 5 games out of first place in the conference. No one likes to see losses, but rest assured that the Rockets are far from out of it.

Looking ahead

Houston opens the week before Christmas with a Monday matchup at home against the Jazz, followed by a Wednesday game hosting the Wizards. They'll face a quick turnaround with an away game at Miami before returning home to take on the Spurs on Saturday.

The Jazz have yet to lose against the Rockets in two contests this season, and the Wizards defeated Houston in their only contest so far as well. Thursday will be the Rocket's first look against a struggling Heat team, and Saturday will serve as a rubber match in the I-10 battle against the Spurs. The past two weeks have left me 0-6 in calling weeks, but I'll try to do my best Rockets impression and rebound. I'm calling a 3-1 week.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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