ROCKETS REPORT

Rockets keep streak going out of the break, but tougher tasks loom ahead

Chris Paul and James Harden are looking ahead to a tough week. Houston Rockets/Facebook

James Harden was the only Rocket to play three games last week, one of which with Team Stephen at the NBA All-Star Game. Harden casually flirted with a triple-double out in L.A., finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists in a three-point defeat that means absolutely nothing.

Later in the Week, the Rockets got back to business.

Picking right where they left off with their 10-game win streak, Houston added two more wins on Friday and Sunday against the Timberwolves and Nuggets, respectively. The Rockets maintain the best record in the league, with a half game lead on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. Sporting an 11-game lead, the Southwest Division is all but locked up at this point.

Game 58: Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves (W, 120-102)

Every time I see the Timberwolves matchup, I assume that it’s going to be a great game because they are the fourth seed in the Western Conference, they sport the seventh best record in the league and I personally enjoy watching Karl Anthony-Towns do Karl Anthony-Towns things.

Every time, however, I have been wrong. It just goes to prove how much of a drop off in talent there is between Houston, Golden State, and everyone else in the Western Conference.

Each of the three meetings against the Timberwolves have resulted in three 18-point victories. This one provided at least a little first-half intrigue, but as most matchups with Houston go, the second half was a blowout. Harden was his usual self, adding a pedestrian 31 points and 9 assists, while Clint Capela showed flashes of his burgeoning offensive ability to the tune of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Game 59: Rockets at Denver Nuggets (W, 119-114)

This week was sort of a mix up for me. I assumed Minnesota would be the must-watch game, while the Denver matchup would be a snoozer.

Nope.

Denver overcame an 18-point deficit, and a furious fourth quarter rally cut the Rockets lead to as little as 4. That’s when--once again--the ball was placed in the hands of Chris Paul and Harden, who tag-teamed the door slamming on the Nuggets' hopes of victory. Paul nailed a clutch fade away mid range shot, followed on the next Houston possession by some Harden cooking and his patented step back jumper to essentially seal it with 46 seconds left.

A five point victory has been quite counter to the norm throughout this current winning streak, as the Rockets have defeated those teams by and average of 12.5 points. A tough game seemed almost necessary.

Looking ahead

Don’t expect this streak to get too crazy, because the back end of the Rockets’ schedule gets a little hairy starting this week. Tonight the Rockets play a hungry Jazz team during the second half of an away back-to-back. Utah has won 12 of its past 13 games. Following that, Houston heads out to L.A. to try and claim some revenge (preferably on-court this time) against a new-look Clippers team, and Saturday they finish the week at home looking to even the season series against Boston.

Utah looks like a possible trap game, so don’t sleep on them tonight. The Clippers aren't exactly at full strength, and I expect the Rockets to take out a lot of frustration on them Wednesday. Saturday’s game against the Celtics is practically must-watch, which is why it’s being aired nationally. Consider it a potential dark-horse Finals matchup, and I think the Rockets even things up with Boston before heading into next week.

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