Looking Ahead: Rockets Schedule Tough After Soft Beginning
By Brett David Roberts
Oct 21, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) is fouled by Houston Rockets forward Jeff Adrien (4) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but the 2-0 Houston Rockets really should be 4-0 by Nov 3, when it closes a four-game stretch that has featured a weak Lakers team, perennial doormat Utah; and wraps up with matchups against the Boston Celtics (Nov. 1) and Philadelphia 76ers (Nov. 3).
Boston is in a state of “in between,” at best, but Rajon Rondo can always milk the most out of his teammates. Paul Pierce is gone, Kevin Garnett has walked off into the sunset, Ray Allen long vanquished, Rondo presses on with a glut of young talent in the frontcourt. We’ll have more on this matchup later.
The 76ers are in full tank mode, with no subtlety about it. It will be interesting to see how Nerlens Noel looks, but there’s little reason to expect anything other than a 20-plus point Rockets blowout victory. It may give Rockets coach Kevin McHale a chance to experiment with a few different lineup combinations.
Then, as the proverbial saying goes, “Ish gets real.” The Rox will find itself playing in South Beach against a still very formidable Heat squad, two nights later at home against the Spurs, before hosting the Warriors on Nov. 8. Thus, it could easily be that the Rockets begin the season 4-0 before sputtering to a humbling 4-3.
None of these tough teams are given losses, of course. But Miami is seeing a highly motivated Chris Bosh more assertive this season, and he’s going to show Houston just what they missed out on when he chose to stay with the Heat. Bosh backed up his offseason chattering by shooting 9-of-18 from the floor in a win over the Wizards on Thurs. night. He also showed a renewed enthusiasm towards hitting the glass, grabbing 15 rebounds (four offensive) and dishing out four assists.
Bosh may be in for a season the likes of which we have not seen from him, even while featured in his young days in Toronto. Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole also scored 21 and 23, respectively, indicating that this Heat team may continue to tick quite well even without LBJ in the machine.
San Antonio is the reigning champ, though the Rockets were 4-0 against the Spurs in the regular season last year. Terrence Jones, in particular, thrived against the Spurs and Tim Duncan, but four games is still kind of a small sample size for Jones, a player whose middle name isn’t “consistency.”
The Golden Warriors were 1-3 against the Rockets last year, but could be tougher this year with Steve Kerr heading up a core that remained entirely intact. There’s going to be a lot of internal improvement in Golden State, and Klay Thompson needs to prove he is worth the $70 M contract he just inked. David Lee had a monster game against the Rockets last season too, in which he battered them for 32 points. The Warriors are deep and deceptively awesome defensively (see: 4th in defensive rating last season), so this game will be tough — even at home.
What is essentially being said is that the 2-0 Rockets record at this point is what it should be. The Lakers are still not a threat, even with a legend like Kobe Bryant. The Jazz are a young and flat out bad team. The Celtics will represent more of a threat, and Dwight Howard will have to avoid foul trouble, because as we’ve pointed out laboriously already here at SCS, there really is no backup 5-man on the roster.
But the bottom line is that a three-game skid is not out of the realms of possibility, in a purely pessimistic world.