Every-Thing Sports

Here's what could give the Rockets a championship edge

Rockets James Harden Russell Westbrook
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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Rockets defeat Magic, 118-106. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Fred VanVleet scored a season-high 37 points and the Houston Rockets snapped a five-game skid with a 118-106 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

The Magic fell into a tie for fourth place with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. They came into the night with a chance to clinch the Southeast Division title with a win and a loss by the Miami Heat, but they couldn’t get it done against Houston and the Heat beat the Hawks 117-111 in double overtime.

“We can't hang our heads,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We've got to come out and go after Milwaukee tomorrow. That's what it's got to be. Take the lessons from this one. Bounce back tomorrow.”

A basket by Markelle Fultz got the Magic within eight with about four minutes to go but VanVleet made a jump shot followed by a three-point play to make it 114-101 about a minute later to secure the victory.

Paolo Banchero and Jalen Suggs scored 21 points apiece for the Magic and Fultz added 18.

VanVleet made six 3-pointers and had eight rebounds and six assists. Jabari Smith Jr. added 23 points and Dillon Brooks had 15 as the Rockets played their last home game of the season.

“We wanted to continue to build and we know we're out of the race but we have four to go,” coach Ime Udoka said. “We don't want to just lay down and chalk it up... we fought hard and played well.”

The Magic scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, with the last five from Joe Ingles, to cut the lead to 97-91 with about nine minutes to go.

Houston got its first points of the quarter on a 3-pointer by VanVleet, but Fultz made a layup seconds later.

The Rockets hadn't forgotten about the 116-86 loss they suffered to Orlando in their season opener.

“They kicked our butts the first game of the season,” VanVleet said. “We definitely remember that. So it was good to get some get back there.”

The Rockets led by 12 at halftime and opened the second half with an 11-4 run to make it 74-55 with nine minutes left in the third. Jalen Green had the first five points in that stretch and VanVleet added a 3-pointer.

Houston was up by 18 after another 3 from VanVleet later in the third quarter before the Magic went on a 10-4 run, with five points from Suggs, to get withing 90-78 with 3 ½ minutes left in the quarter.

Soon after that Ingles and Houston’s Cam Whitmore were both given technical fouls after bumping into one another and jawing at each other. Whitmore was ejected 14 seconds after that for arguing with an official after being called for a loose ball foul.

Ingles made two free throws but the Rockets outscored Orlando 5-2 to close out the quarter and take a 97-82 lead into the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Magic: Visit Milwaukee Wednesday night.

Rockets: Visit Utah Thursday night.

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