The 2015-2016 season finally reached an end last Sunday but for the Houston Rockets it ended much earlier due to weak and sub-par performances. Not everything was crying and tears for Red Nation though. Join us as we’ll take a look back and revisit the Rockets Top 5 Games played by Harden and Co. this season.
Houston Rockets season was full of expectations. After reaching the Conference Finals last year much was expected from James Harden, Dwight Howard and Kevin McHale. And with the addition of Ty Lawson confidence was sky high and the optimism for the Texan team to challenge for the title was palpable.
However, it took less than 12 games to all go down the drain as after a poor 4-7 record to start the season the Rockets had already fired their coach and the team was appointed by experts as one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
But, whenever the team played a strong game many believed the ‘old’ Houston Rockets were back. The team’s unpredictability was one of the most feared aspects of the league as no one knew which Houston Rockets team was showing up on each given day.
Thus the team’s instability and inconsistency made it possible for the Rockets to win games against teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder (away from home) and lose games against teams like the Phoenix Suns (at Toyota Center) in the same week.
We’ve already seen the other side of the spectrum and reviewed Rockets worst games. Now it’s time to sit back and relax as we look at Houston’s 5 best performances of the year!
Next: Number 5: A Sweep Against Eastern Conference's Finest
Mar 25, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) controls the ball as Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) defends in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets 113 – 107 Toronto Raptors – March 6th, 2016 @ Air Canada Centre
Toronto Raptors 109 – 112 Houston Rockets – March 25, 2016 @ Toyota Center
I’ve combined these two wins because frankly they were quite unbelievable. Since the 2002-2003 season the Houston Rockets can’t seem to win the season series against the Toronto Raptors as they’ve split the games over the last 13 years.
It didn’t come easy and James Harden probably played some of his best minutes on the season in those games. Adding up in both games Harden had an insane 27 assists and 72 points.
Truth be told the Rockets might’ve had some help from officiating in the second game as weirdly enough both Raptors stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan were sent packing after six fouls. Harden did his part though with a triple double that day.
A single victory against the Raptors this year would’ve probably been enough to earn a spot here but to sweep the Canadian team makes it mandatory.
Next: Number 4: An Overtime Win to Build Confidence in the New Coach
Nov 18, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) and guard James Harden (13) react following a three point basket by Brewer to tie the game in regulation against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. The Rockets won in overtime 108-103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers 103 – 108 Houston Rockets OT – November 15th, 2015 @ Toyota Center
In all fairness this was a rather poor game by the Houston Rockets. Nevertheless the significance of the game and the emotional way it ended makes this game worthy of a spot in this Top 5.
It was J.B. Bickerstaff’s first game after the Rockets lost 4 straight. The team had to give some kind of an answer coming off that Boston Celtics crushing defeat.
But, for the majority of the game the Rockets played exactly as they were playing before: sloppy. Then in the last quarter the team finally showed some sense of urgency after being down 17 in the third.
Fueled by Brewer and Harden the Rockets managed to take the game to overtime with an amazing running three-point shot:
In overtime James Harden completely manhandled the Portland Trail Blazers knocking down almost everything, taking advantage of his strength to post up Allen Crabbe and making those step back jumpers he loves. He ended up with 45 points and the Rockets with a win that maybe signaled a turn of the tide.
It didn’t though.
Next: Number 3: Snapping Up a 14-Game Home Win Streak
Mar 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the hoop against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (right) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets 102 – 98 Boston Celtics – March 11th, 2016 @ TD Garden
One of the most surprising wins of the season and as my colleague Coty Davis said in his recap by far one of the best games the Rockets played all season.
The Celtics coming off a 14 win streak at home were kept at bay by the Rockets who amazingly did it with a defensive effort. The Rockets held Boston down to only 37.4% shooting from the field and just 25.8% from beyond the arc.
And with Michael Beasley carrying the load coming out of the bench to score 18 points (including 12 in the third) the Rockets managed to steal a big one on the road. This win coming just 5 days after their victory against the Raptors at the 6ix.
James Harden finished the game with 32 points but despite the win the Rockets displayed more of the usual carelessness handling the ball and committed 18 turnovers.
That’s not to say that the Celtics were any better committing 15 as well.
Next: Number 2: Harden's Favorite Opponent
Apr 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder 110 – 118 Houston Rockets – April 3rd, 2016 @ Toyota Center
Since he left Oklahoma City, James Harden probably made a secret vow that no one knows to save his best basketball games against his former franchise.
The Thunder who entered this game after winning 9 of the last 10 games at times appeared to be on the verge of a blowout win against the Rockets.
But with Harden’s ongoing journey of tormenting his former teammates the Rockets crawled back to a 6 point deficit in the fourth quarter to win big.
Harden tallied 15 points in the last period finishing the game with 41 points and 9 assists. Ariza did his part with 18 points and 7 rebounds.
The Rockets forced the Thunder into an amazing 21 Turnovers and stole the ball twice as much as OKC (5 steals against 11 for the Texan team).
A huge win that likely made people believe the Rockets could have a shot against the Thunder in the playoffs.
That said it’s unlikely the Rockets would’ve won given the form OKC displayed in the postseason. It’s doubtful the Rockets would have had any chance facing OKC, but I wonder if the pairing with the Thunder could’ve at least sparked some fire in Harden, at least enough to make the series competitive.
Next: Number 1: A Christmas Miracle?
Dec 25, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts to a three-point basket by forward Trevor Ariza (1) against the San Antonio Spurs in the second half of a NBA basketball game on Christmas at Toyota Center. Rockets won 88 to 84. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs 84 – 88 Houston Rockets – December 25th, 2016 @ Toyota Center
Arguably the best game of the season was when the Rockets handed the San Antonio Spurs their 6th defeat of the season after a masterclass performance from H-Town’s defense.
This was the Rockets single victory against their Texan rivals Spurs and to beat a team that only lost 15 games this past season in itself is a feat worthy of a place in this list.
But the manner of the win with the Rockets playing a pleasant game of basketball in which Harden shot only 5 free-throws, holding the Spurs to a season low in points and snapping a 7-game win streak gives even more appeal to this victory.
And coach Pop didn’t even employ the “hack-a” strategy until the very last quarter!
So, all in all an amazing Christmas gift for all Red Nation!
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