Houston Rockets: First Test of the Season – Los Angeles Clippers
Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets are 3-0, undefeated for the first time since the 1993-1994 season when the Rockets started the season 15-0, en route to the Larry O’ Brien trophy. The upcoming week for the Rockets will be their first test of the young season. Houston will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday at the Staples Center in LA, then travel to the Moda Center to play the Portland Trail Blazers the next night. If this wasn’t enough, the Los Angeles Lakers make their first trip to Houston on Thursday, followed by another meeting against the Clippers on Saturday. Four games in the next six days will give each of us a clear reading on what this Rockets team is capable of.
After the first three games against the Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, and the Utah Jazz, one thing is for sure and that is the Rockets have a solid defense. This was of course expected with the addition of Dwight Howard, and became even more expected when Omer Asik was moved to the starting lineup. The Rockets have held the three opponents to a combined .387 percent shooting from the field (3rd best in the NBA) and .288 percent shooting from behind the arc (3rd best in the NBA). Of course the Rockets were expected to lead the league in rebounding, which they do, but they also lead in free throw attempts, and three point attempts.
What hasn’t been as consistent is the offense.
Against Charlotte, and Utah the offense was nowhere to be found early on. In both games the offense arrived when needed, but the inconsistency early on is not a surprise. Against Dallas the offense surged out the gate and really never looked back. Both the Mavericks and Jazz attempted the Hack-A-Howard strategy, but Howard was able to thwart his arch-enemy, free throws. He has averaged 15 points, a league-high 17 rebounds and has even made half of his free throws, a slight uptick over last season’s 49.2%. Returning to the Staples Center for the first time since the Lakers were knocked out the playoffs, the Los Angeles media will be all over Howard. His happiness, and focus is key to the stretch the Rockets are about to go on, and their overall success.
“I’m just happy to be on the floor playing, being a lot healthier than I was last season,” Howard told reporters a few days ago. “I’m just full of joy.”
Howard is healthy, but the lost of point guard Patrick Beverley to a partially torn abdominal muscle will hurt against the craftiness of Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard. In his absence Aaron Brooks has seen more minutes but the solid, confident play of Jeremy Lin has helped to soften the blow. Chandler Parsons finally came to life against the Jazz while the rest of the team was off offensively, and he will need to gain consistency during this stretch.
Ultimately it is early in the season and mistakes, will be rampant, but come Sunday the NBA will have a better understanding what the Rockets are all about.
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