Ever since the days of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets have been in Western Conference limbo. Never good enough to make the playoffs, but always in contention to the point where they could avoid rebuilding.
GM Daryl Morey has comprised a young team headed by James Harden that aims to contend for the Western Conference crown down the road. The only notable player over 26 years of age is Carlos Delfino at 30, and once (if) they lock in Chandler Parsons they’ll have their core signed through 2014-2015.
It was a truly exciting season for Houston fans. Having a superstar again and hopes of winning a title in the near future are surfacing. Now seems like a perfect time to look back at some of the top moments from this Rockets season.
James Harden Impresses During Opening Week
Just four days after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden suited up for the first time as the focal point of a franchise. With fellow newly acquired Rockets Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik by his side, Harden went out and showed he was ready to lead a team to the playoffs.
Scoring 37 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 12 assists is quite a way to begin your season. Following that up with 45 points on just 19 shots is remarkable. Often dubbed one of the most efficient scorers in the league, Harden proved that accurate by shooting 63% in his first two games, to go along with 23 free throw attempts.
Asik Nears 20-20 Against Former Team on Christmas in Rout
12/25/12 – Box Score
Truly awful jerseys (see right) and the Chicago Bulls’ stifling defense couldn’t stop Omer Asik and the Houston Rockets. The former Bull put up 20 points and 18 rebounds on Christmas Day in a 23 point beat down of the Rose-less Bulls. Lin, Harden, and Parsons each contributed 20+ points as the team shot 56% and out rebounded Chicago 45-31.
Three-Point Barrage Ties NBA Record
Nine different Rockets hit a 3-pointer, for a total of 23, on their way to a 140-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Jeremy Lin led the way with five of his own from range, Harden and Parsons each added four.
The only other time in NBA history a team has hit 23 three-pointers was Orlando in 2009. That team was basically Dwight Howard and a dozen shooters.
James Harden’s Career High Tops Thunder
In the final meeting of the year against Harden’s former teammates, he had one of the best games of his young career. The Beard was insanely efficient, scoring 46 points on just 19 (!!!) shots. That included 7-8 from 3, and 11-12 from the charity stripe.
That performance was barely enough to pull out the victory , but it was sweet, sweet victory. The Rockets went on a 23-10 run in the last four minutes to win 122-119.
Rob Mahoney, of SI.com’s “The Point Forward”, recently ranked Harden’s performance the third best of the year.
Rockets Clinch Playoffs on Buzzer Beating Goaltend
04/09/13 – Box Score
As stated in the opening paragraph, the Rockets clinched the playoffs Tuesday night with a 101-98 win over the Phoenix Suns. The recently amnestied Luis Scola led the Suns with 28 points. James Harden responded with 33 of his own, but the team as a whole struggled from 3-point range. Shooting just 6-30 from behind the arc generally results in a loss, but the ineptness of the Suns helps.
The Rockets will most likely end up the seventh seed int he Western Conference Playoffs, facing off with either the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.