Feb 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) and center Dwight Howard (12) react after defeating the Washington Wizards 113-112 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets: It’s Gut-Check Time


 

As the Houston Rockets creep upon the fourth quarter of the 2013-14 NBA season, one can argue that the hottest team in the league hasn’t really been put to the test. Rocking a 40-19 record, which is the second best in franchise history to this point of the year, is very welcomed but also expected. More than one “expert” had foreseen the Houston squad to win their fair share of regular season competitions but the flaws were highlighted enough to birth doubt that a trip to the Western Conference Finals was reachable.

To say that the upcoming trial versus the best of the best is important would be a gigantic understatement. In the next seven games the Rockets will face the Miami Heat twice, as well as four other teams worthy of labeling themselves as playoff contenders. The Pacers, Trailblazers, Thunder, and the Bulls. The Rockets are 3-4 against teams ranked one or two in their respective conference with every win accomplished by defeating a team within their own division. The Thunder and the Pacers proved to be too tall a task for the freshly assembled Rockets. Of course, these are teams who have experience with each other on the stage where teams go to grow; somewhere the young Rockets are striving for.

But with lumps comes confidence that they can stand toe to toe with the bully. Trading hay-makers with the elite constructs the foundation required to stand a trophy on. A boxer can’t win the belt without getting a bruise, right? While Red Nation loyalists know what to draw from the “big 2,” it is still a question mark to what will come out of the other players. With defenses focused on limiting Dwight Howard’s production and James Harden’s output, the Rockets hopes will fall on the shoulders of Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Omer Asik, Jordan Hamilton, Jeremy Lin, and Patrick Beverly. On paper, you cringe thinking about the match ups.  Not nearly enough game minutes have elapsed to work out the kinks.  Hopefully, after the next couple of weeks, these youngsters will have sprouted the necessary follicles on their chests to call themselves contenders.

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