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Houston Rockets Daily Rocket Science: Harden is the best shooting guard

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The Houston Rockets have been the most unpredictable team in the league this year, illustrated best by the huge Christmas win over the San Antonio Spurs followed by the dud against the struggling-even-more-than-the-Rockets New Orleans Pelicans. It seems that there are two versions of this Houston team, and there’s no rhyme or reason to predicting which one will show up on any given night.

Houston just narrowly escaped falling deeper into the pit with a comeback win over the Utah Jazz, where the two previously mentioned versions of the Rockets somehow showed up on the same night. The team allowed an atrocious 58 points during the first half and then came back from the break to suffocate the Jazz and allow only 33 points in the second half.

At times, there seems to be a link between James Harden‘s and the team’s play. The Beard scored 22 of his 30 points during an explosive second half and led his team to victory after an apathetic and lazy first half highlighted by a 3/9 shooting performance . Despite the fact that he’s been just as unpredictable as his team during some of this season, James is still the best two-guard in the league when he wants to be.

Jan 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a basket in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

Despite the buzz that’s been going around about Klay Thompson claiming to be the best shooting guard in the league, there’s at least one writer who has his head on straight. Colby Giacubeno of HoopsHabit.com takes a cold, analytical look at the best shooting guards in the league, and a certain somebody doesn’t even crack the top 5. Take a look at the list and how Houston’s finest James Harden measures up.

Top 5 Shooting Guards in 2015-2016 [Hoops Habit – Colby Giacubeno]

"With the evolution of the scoring point guards and stretch power forwards in today’s game, it has taken away scoring opportunities from the majority of the players at shooting guard. This isn’t speaking for the entire pool of players at the position, though. As you will see, there are still a few of pure scorers left in the NBA that are the first options of their respective teams."

The comeback win against the Utah Jazz on Monday night is already old news, but the Houston Chronicle featured an article on the huge impact that good defense has on the outcome of any particular game. The Houston Rockets’ defense looks nothing like it did last year, and that’s arguably the biggest issue this team faces going forward.

Rockets’ skid-busting win illustrates the difference defense makes [Houston Chronicle – Jonathan Feigan]

"The Rockets are fourth in the NBA in scoring (10th in points per possession) but 27th in points allowed, 26th in defensive rating and 29th in opposing field-goal percentage. The shortcoming on the defensive end has been especially conspicuous lately, even before Monday’s second-half turnaround."

Notice that I made sure to say defense was arguably the biggest issue that the Rockets face. The other huge problem is team chemistry. There are many reasons for why this team should have chemistry issues, but none of them are a worthy excuse for the way the group has been playing. Sports Illustrated discusses Houston’s biggest issue as well as issues of other underperforming teams.

Disappointing NBA teams: Why these underachievers have taken a step back [Sports Illustrated – Jared Dubin]

"And none of these guys—save maybe Dwight—tried all that much at the start of the year, which got Kevin McHale fired and pushed J.B. Bickerstaff into the head coach’s seat. Houston’s been a bit better since that point, but regression to the mean was probably coming anyway. And it’s not like Houston’s effort has been much more consistent since the change. You never know which Rockets team you’re going to get on any given night."

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The Rockets definitely have their fair share of issues. The ones detailed above are just the beginning of things that Houston must deal with. But with a home game coming up against a team they just beat on the road, followed by two days of rest before another home game, things could be looking up – at least for now.

We’ll see how long it takes for Motiejunas and Lawson to return to the court and if Bickerstaff chooses to make it a regular occurrence to give significant playing time to rookie Montreal Harrell. If things work themselves out well, the Rockets could be looking at a shiny new .500 record this time next week. It may not be the type of “looking forward” that we expected at the beginning of the season, but nevertheless there are things to look forward to in the near future concerning the Houston Rockets.

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Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our Space City Scoop Round Table Sessions to help you get through the season. Start your morning with SCS Daily Rocket Science  which offers an update of news on the Rockets around the National and Social Media sites and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

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