Could last night have been the turning point?
I’ll admit that I started to write this post last night during halftime, and the tone was going to be much more somber. I thought I was watching the third loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in two weeks, but James Harden and company had something to say about that.
The Beard poured in 34 points in the second half (46 total), Dwight Howard turned in his nightly double double (19 points and 13 boards), and Trevor Ariza finished with 5 steals and helped to hold superstar Damian Lillard to just 6-20 shooting.
This isn’t quite time to celebrate (people thought this team would win 60 games), but last night did provide me with a sweet sigh of relief.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
The big question of this season and for the future of the Rockets is “Can Harden and Howard ever work together?” So far this season, the answer is an overall no. The potential definitely exists, but their personality clashes have prevented any real productivity this season. Space City Scoop’s very own Coty Davis took an analytical look at the question and what the answer means for the future of the franchise. He reminds readers of a similar time in NBA history when two players took a while to figure out how to work together well: Shaq and Kobe. We all know how successful they figured out how to be, and their relationship gives hope to Houston fans.
"It’s likely Howard and Harden will never be as dominant as Shaq and Kobe, but the potential is there. Since they became teammates in 2013, The Rockets have possessed the fifth best record in the Association at 138-83. According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, based on the average of point total, rebounds, and assists, Howard, and Harden are the fourth most this season. productive duo"
If you want a bit of a feel good read, you’ve found it in this next article. Though James and Dwight have had more than their fair share of issues both on and off the court this season, both of them insist that they are doing their best to work things out and maintain a good friendship and on-court relationship. As Calvin Watkins of ESPN reported, the two are on good terms. They’d had one-on-one discussions and practices and are trying to make it work (and it did seem to work last night), but time is still running out.
Last week, after a victory in Phoenix, the two bonded over a song by Future playing from Howard’s locker as Harden did a little dance.
Prior to that game, Howard and Harden had dinner in Phoenix, a meeting of the minds, to solve what troubles the Rockets. After the Friday night victory, Harden and Howard hung out together and took Trevor Ariza‘s cell phone and posed for a picture, posting it on Ariza’s Instagram account.
“They do that all the time,” Ariza said. “They’re always taking my phone.”
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If the Beard and Superman cannot figure things out and the Rockets continue down the path they’re headed, there’s a good chance they’ll be right on the brink of playoffs come the end of the regular season. If there’s a tie between two or more teams, the final playoff spot goes to the team with the best record versus the other team(s) that tied. It sounds like something that Houston should be concerned with, but according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, coach JB Bickerstaff isn’t worried about it. I’m not sure how I feel about that mindset overall, but I respect the coach’s concern with focusing on making his team the best it can be.
Portland would clinch the tie-breaker with the Rockets with a win on Thursday. If the Rockets win to tie the season-series, they would trail the Blazers by two games in conference record.
“We’re not worried about other teams,” Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’re not worried about the playoff race. Our focus in on being the best we can possibly be. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if we focus on the process, we’ll win enough games and it will take care of itself.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this season has left us Rockets fans with more questions than answers. Last night’s game featured two very different Houston teams, the one that lays down and allows 64 points in the first half, or the one that gets back up and pours in 70 in the second. Which one is the real Rockets team? So far this year, nobody has gotten a straight answer to that question.
There isn’t much time left in the season, and finishing a season with questions unanswered is generally not something to get excited about.
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