Rockets roll through another unbeaten week with two easy victories (and more to come)
This past week the Rockets had a light workload and plenty of time to enjoy long holiday weekend. The Rockets started the week Wednesday with yet another blowout versus the Nuggets, followed by a Saturday comeback win against the Knicks to complete an unbeaten week 6. With the two wins this week they extend their current winning streak to four. The Rockets are second in the league, first in the Western Conference, and first in the Southwest Division with a three game lead at 15-4 on the season.
Game Eighteen: Rockets vs Denver Nuggets (W, 125-95)
The Rockets had tied a bow on this one before halftime. A 36-17 first quarter ignited one the season’s biggest blowouts, leading at one point by 48 points. Chris Paul and James Harden continued to silence critics over their ability to play together, as Paul punched in a double-double (23 points, 13 assists), to pair with Harden’s flirtation with a triple-double (21 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds). Trevor Ariza was 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and led the team with 25 points, marking his second 20-point game of the season. Luc Mbah a Moute registered a plus-57 for the game, which is the best plus-minus a player has achieved in 20 seasons.
Game Nineteen: Rockets vs New York Knicks (W, 117-102)
There seemed to be a bit of a holiday hangover to start the contest, as the Knicks jumped out to a 39-29 first quarter despite operating without their star, Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks’ lead would quickly erode in the second and the Rockets would head into halftime down by only 3. The Rockets clamped down defensively in the third, holding the Knicks to 13 points. Harden continued to do Harden things with a 37-point 10-assist outing. Paul put in his first 30-plus minute effort with the Rockets this season, logging 6 points and 13 assists. Replaced in the starting lineup by P.J. Tucker, Ryan Anderson added 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. The Rockets would go on to erase a first quarter 22-point deficit and win by 15.
Keep it (under) 100: With the Rockets’ 125-95 win over the Nuggets, they are now 7-1 on the season when they hold their opponents under 100 points
Despite a short week for the Rockets, Harden continues to lead the league in points and assists. Russell Westbrook is closing in on assists, but there’s a 55 point gap between Harden and current runner up, LeBron James.
Spoiler alert: Chris Paul makes the Rockets better. Since his return from injury, the Rockets are averaging roughly 122 points per game. That’s 9 points more than when Paul was sidelined. They’re also undefeated when he’s been in the lineup.
Rockets Player of the Week (not named James Harden):
For now it’s Chris Paul once again. Fairly soon I think I’ll have to change the title and add Paul, but for now since he’s still fresh I’ll give him some spotlight. In week six he averaged 14.5 points, 12.5 assists, and 2.5 steals.
The Rockets will be back in action Monday against the Brooklyn Nets for the first of three games this week. Wednesday they’ll wrap up their homestand with their second look at Indiana, followed by a late Sunday game in LA for their first contest against the Lakers.
The Brooklyn Nets are just not a very good team, with their highest scoring threat averaging 14.8 points per game. Oladipo has shined as the centerpiece for the Pacers this season, yet the Pacers were thoroughly outmatched in their first meeting against the Rockets--losing by 23. The Lakers are 8-11 currently and have not yet played the Rockets this season.
It’s beginning to sound like I’m a homer more and more with these predictions, but I honestly can’t see the Rockets dropping more than one game this week. I’ll call my shot and say that the Rockets extend their win streak to 7 by this time next week.