Well, that was disappointing. The Houston Rockets cruelly allowed me to get my hopes up for a second. Being down sixteen with less than half of the fourth quarter remaining last night against the Los Angeles Clippers tempted me to turn off the TV. It was so close to being over that I decided to keep it on though for the heck of it though, and things sure got exciting from there. The Rockets mounted a near-impossible comeback to force overtime. Heading into the extra period with all the momentum, they allowed LA to score on every single OT possession except one and ended up losing by eight.
There were some rough parts of this game. James Harden had an off night, scoring 20 points but missing five of his thirteen free throws. The team as a whole shot just 63.5% from the stripe, missing 19 total. Dwight Howard was nearly the best from the line shooting 14/18. When the game was lost in overtime, that’s a tough stat to stomach.
There were also some great parts of this game. Marcus Thornton hit two huge threes to send the game into extra minutes, scoring 23 points in just 21 minutes. More importantly though, Howard had the best game of the season by far and arguably the best game of his career. If 36 points (on 11/16 shooting) and a career high tying 26 boards weren’t enough, he also had four assists, a block, and a steal. He was nearly unstoppable.
The Rockets didn’t come out on top, but they showed that they are a team to be taken seriously (at least by the Clippers).
Who cares if voting is over. Dwight Howard #NBAVote
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 19, 2016
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While I’m on the topic of Dwight being incredible, I’ll go ahead and share an entire article written to discuss that point. Calvin Watkins of ESPN wrote a couple days ago about how Dwight Howard [is] making noise with his game. While last night’s game hurt, Houston is still the winner of six of the last eight games. The recent improved play can be credited to lots of people and lots of circumstances, and Howard deserves his fair share. He’s had a double-double in each of his past ten games and has been the defensive anchor for the team on a nightly basis.
"“He’s playing well on both ends of the floor,” guard James Harden said. “I think especially offensively he’s not trying to force it, and that’s why he’s scoring and able to get touches and get easy dunks and things like that. Defensively he’s helping, he’s contesting every shot at the rim, pick-and-roll coverage is up. He’s doing the things we need him to do in order for us to win.”"
Another player who’s been playing well lately (albeit not quite as noteworthy as Howard) is Montrezl Harrell. Despite getting mostly garbage minutes, he’s been doing his best to earn his minutes. After the Lakers game two nights ago, coach Bickerstaff said “I have to do a better job of finding minutes for him and getting him on the court. His energy is infectious and the guys love to play with him. We need guys like that on the floor.” There aren’t just a ton of minutes to go around on this year’s Houston team, but Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle made the argument that he’ll get his fair share in his article, Montrezl Harrell earning valuable playing time in his rookie season.
"Harrell remains on the fringe of the Rockets’ rotation, but with Terrence Jones still trying to make his production more consistent and second-year forward/center Clint Capela working to scale his own version of a “rookie wall,” Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff considered his high-energy rookie and said he would have to get him playing time, too."
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I feel like I might feature power ranking articles pretty often, but it’s just been exciting to see the Rockets consistently climb in the rankings lately. Last week, I was excited to see Houston get put at number 13. However, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report ranked them in the top ten teams at number nine this week in his NBA Power Rankings Halfway Through the 2015-16 Season. The team has played well and taken down some good opponents over the past couple of weeks, and people are starting to give them credit. Work is still to be done, but it’s comforting to know that the Rockets are back to being considered a top ten team by at least some folks in the media.
After swearing last week that talk of Houston’s resurrection was premature and that it’d take a serious, sustained stretch of good basketball to justify another move up the rankings, here we are.
The Rockets, winners of five straight, are back in the top 10.
Though they lost their most recent game, it’s an exciting time to be a Rockets fan. Chemistry is beginning to look attainable and most players are actually playing up to their potential. They’ve got a pretty balanced schedule coming up over the next week or two, so let’s hope they can take advantage of the opportunity to bolster their record and put it a few games over .500.
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. Visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.