Houston Rockets top 10 games to look forward to in 2016-17 season

Apr 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) on the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) on the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Predicting the top 10 games for the Houston Rockets 2016-17 Season

10 must see games for the Houston Rockets upcoming season

The Houston Rockets 2016-2017 season schedule has been released and offers fans a number of intriguing match ups. The full schedule is available in the menu bar at the top of Space City Scoop’s website.

After winning 56 games two years ago, the Houston Rockets limped into the playoffs with a 41-41 record last season. This year, with Dwight Howard moving on and a few key free agent acquisitions in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, Houston is hoping to regain some of their magic.

Here is a look at the top 10 games that H-Town fans won’t want to miss for the new season.

Next: No. 10 - 'Wade'ing in without 'Roses'

Jul 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwayne Wade (right) and Bulls general manager Gar Forman pose for a photo after addressing the media after a press conference at Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 – Chicago Bulls, Feb. 3

Houston Rockets will get a chance to take on the Chicago Bulls in early February. By then, Chicago and the rest of the NBA will have seen how the additions of Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo fair. The moves were spurned after going from 50 wins two years ago, to finishing last season at 42-40. The Bulls also lost Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but drafted Denzel Valentine who has high expectations.

The Rockets dropped both games against Chicago last season in close fashion. Chicago took the first game, 108-100, despite a 36-point effort from James Harden. Houston just missed the Bulls in their second meeting, falling 103-100 at the Toyota Center.

Next: No. 9 - Reigning in 'the King'

Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with the Bill Russell MVP Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 – Cleveland Cavaliers, Nov. 1

This will be the first time the Rockets get a crack at the defending NBA champs. At just the fourth game into the season, Houston will make the trip to Cleveland as part of their first game of a five-game road trip. The Rockets have a tough start to the season, playing seven of their first nine games of the year on the road.

The Rockets split their two-games with the Cavaliers last season. After being held to 35 percent shooting as a team, Cleveland took game one in Houston, 91-77. The next game however, Houston evened the series with a tight 106-100 win on the road. Harden led the way with 27 points, and Michael Beasley pitched in with 17 points off the bench. That loss represented just one of eight home defeats for Cleveland last season.

Next: No. 8 - All hail the 'Super Team'

Apr 21, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) holds the ball as Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) defends during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 97-96. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 – Golden State Warriors, March 28 & March 31

The Rockets have been knocked out of the playoffs by the Warriors in each of the teams last two seasons. In 2015 the Rockets lost in the Western Conference Finals and then in the first round last season. Much like the rest of the NBA, Houston has yet to figure out the Warriors. And with the addition of Kevin Durant, that’s likely not to change. No matter, with these two, high scoring offenses, it’s still must see T.V.

This slide technically covers two games both with the Golden State Warriors as the opponent. Specifically the third and fourth contests the Rockets face the Warriors this upcoming season. By this point in the season both teams will have a feel for each other thereby making the games that much more intense. The Rockets host Golden State on March 28,  then after traveling to Portland, Houston will take on the Warriors again for the second time in three days. It seems like an ideal time for Houston to ensure at least a split, but possibly steal one on the road.

Last year, the Rockets dropped all three games against the Warriors by an average of 12.3 points. Harden averaged 27.7 points per game against the Warriors, while Stephen Curry averaged 30 points in two of the three games.

Next: No. 7 - Heading down the highway

Apr 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) guards Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 – Dallas Mavericks, Oct. 28

There are two teams that Rockets’ fans always look for soon as the schedules come out. The Dallas Mavericks are one of them. The I-45 rivalry kicks off again with two match ups in the Rockets opening three games of the season. The focus will be on the first meeting of the season which will take place in Dallas.aBoth teams come off mediocre seasons, and will be looking to return to Western Conference powerhouse form this year.

The game will feature new faces to the rivalry. Dallas added small forward Harrison Barnes and center Andrew Bogut, while Houston added Anderson and Gordon. Consequently each of these free agent additions should be key contributors in the season series. Most noteworthy all 4 contests with the Mavericks will be played prior to the New Year.

The Rockets went 2-2 against the Mavericks last season with two of those games going down to the wire. Houston came away with a 100-96 win in the second meeting last season. Harden turned in 25 points, while Trevor Ariza went 4-7 from downtown for 18 points. In another close game, Houston couldn’t catch up to Dallas in an 88-86 thriller. J.J. Barea had a career game, scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-16 shooting with eight assists.

With so many core additions the stage is set for the Mavericks – Rockets inner state, highway rivalry to live up to historical expectations.

Next: No. 6 - Clipping a Western Power?

Mar 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) looks to pass against Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 – Los Angeles Clippers, Dec. 30

It’s not often you forget about losing a 3-1 lead in the playoffs that results in yet another failed playoff run. The Rockets may have revamped their roster, but the Clippers core of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, are still there, and still remember.

Houston went 2-2 against the Clippers last season with every game featuring multiple players producing double digit scoring. The Rockets squeezed by in their first meeting, 109-105, with Harden dropping 46 points against a Clippers squad he has historically struggled against (17.2 points per game, 37.8% Field Goal percentage in 24 career games vs. LAC). Their third meeting saw a combined 272 points in a Los Angeles 140-132 overtime win.

Plus, who doesn’t want to see scrappy Beverly and Paul go at each other?

Next: No. 5 - Tailor made rivalry?

Feb 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) celebrates with teammates guard Jrue Holiday (11) and guard Eric Gordon (10) after scoring against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Pelicans 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 – New Orleans Pelicans, Dec. 16

This will be the first time Anderson and Gordon will play against their old squad. The former Pelicans first trip back to ‘The Big Easy’ won’t come until February 23rd. So, Rockets fans will have to wait until after Valentine’s Day to see if New Orleans welcomes back the duo with love or boos.

Houston won three of their four games against the Pelicans last season, but each game was decided by single digits. After a 110-108 loss in the second meeting, the Rockets squeezed by New Orleans 112-111. Harden turned in 35 points and Ariza had 31 points, thanks to an 8-12 performance from beyond the arc.

The theatrics of seeing Anderson and Gordon face the Pelicans for the first time will be interesting enough. But it doesn’t hurt that these two teams have gone down to the wire over the last few seasons.

Next: No. 4 - Facing a familiar foe with a new wing

Jan 27, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) guards Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Grizzlies defeated the Mavericks 109-90. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 – Memphis Grizzlies, Jan. 13

Speaking of returns, Chandler Parsons makes another trip to Houston. He’ll be wearing a different shade of blue after signing with the Grizzlies in the offseason, but he’s coming to Houston regardless.

Parsons spent his first three season in the NBA with the Rockets and Houston had high hopes for him. But after signing a new deal with the rival Mavs two years ago, and publicly bad-mouthing the city of Houston, the feelings of Clutch City quickly turned negative towards the small forward.

In addition, it will also be the first time former Rockets’ head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will return to Houston. Bickerstaff joined the Grizzlies’ bench this offseason as an associate head coach while Jeff Bzdelik left Memphis to become the Rockets defensive coach. So, it will be interesting to see how Rockets’ fans welcome their former coach who, despite a mountain of locker room issues, still was technically able to get his team into the playoffs last year.

The Rockets split their series against Memphis last year, dropping the first two, but coming back in the next two. Harden put up 40 points in the 102-93 loss at home. In their final meeting, the Rockets put up 130 points with nine of 12 Rockets scoring double digit points.

Next: No. 3 - New Fundamentals?

Feb 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Josh Smith (5) and San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) during a game at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 – San Antonio Spurs, Nov. 9

There are two teams Rockets’ fans always look for as soon as the schedules come out and both reside in the State of Texas.  Houston gets a strong dose of their inner-state rival Spurs with two games within the first two games. In addition, those two games are part of a back-to-back against the Spurs in San Antonio on Nov. 9, and again in Houston on Nov. 12.

It will be the first time the the Rockets, and the rest of the league, will face the Spurs without Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental called it a career in the offseason, but the Spurs, as always, remain a contender. San Antonio added Pau Gasol and David Lee who will get their first taste of the Rockets-Spurs rivalry.

Houston didn’t have much success against the 67-win Spurs last season. They did take the Christmas Day game, 88-84, behind the strength of 26 combined points off the bench from Terrence Jones and Jason Terry. The Rockets next three meetings ended in Houston losses, all by double-digits. Harden and co. will be tested early with the trip to San Antonio, a place they haven’t won in two season. In 2013-2014, the Rockets went 4-0 against the Spurs, but have gone 2-6 versus San Antonio since then.

Next: No. 2 - No Mamba, no problem

Apr 10, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) during the second half at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeat the Lakers 130-110. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 – Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 26

Houston open up the new season with the Lakers on Oct. 26. This road game to Los Angeles will  mark D’Antoni’s return to Lakers Land since his tenure ended as head coach. The Lakers will feature a roster that doesn’t include Kobe Bryant for the first time in 20 years, a new head coach in Luke Walton and a roster filled with young talent looking to compete.

D’Antoni went 67-87 in his two seasons at the helm for the Lakers with a roster that featured Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in hopes of creating another championship caliber team. With Bryant and Howard clashing and copious injuries plaguing the Lakers the team never met expectations. Keeping that in mind expect a strong reaction to D’Antoni from the Lakers faithful.

The Rockets swept the Lakers last season in their four match ups in convincing fashion. Harden averaged 31.5 points per game against the Lakers last season and put up 40 in their final meeting in the Rockets’ 130-110 win in Houston.

While this may not seem like a must-see game, it’s definitely one to mark down. If for nothing else, it offers the potential for a huge performance from James Harden and his Rockets.

Next: No. 1 - Superman is in the building!

Apr 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) waits for play to resume against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeat the Rockets 88-86. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 – Atlanta Hawks, Feb. 2

Mark it down Red Nation, Howard makes his return to Houston on Feb. 2 wearing his new no. 8 with the Atlanta Hawks. Howard’s exit  with the Rockets was met largely by mixed reviews. After a year of team-wide under preforming and issues with fellow star Harden, Howard chose to sign with the Hawks in the offseason.

When Howard signed with Houston in July 2013, he brought championship hopes to the Rockets. Clutch City had hopes Superman would add his name as another fixture in a long line of great Houston Rockets’ big men. The closest the team got was the Western Conference Finals and after last year, the team was in dire need of a shake up.

More from Space City Scoop

As with all East teams the Rockets will face Howard and the Hawks twice this season.  Houston’s first meeting occurs in Atlanta on Nov. 5.  On February 2nd Howard makes his return visit to the Toyota Center. The reaction Howard gets from the Houston faithful could go either way.

Many fans recognize what Howard brought to the team, and credit him for elevating the team to a higher level. In contrast, there is a slight majority that believe Howard’s rift with Harden was the key to the Rockets disastrous 2015-16 season. Furthermore, many believe Howard often shrunk when the games mattered most, specifically in the playoffs.

No matter how you feel on the issue, it’s must see T.V. The game will be one of five games broadcast on TNT this year and 21 national games this season.

Next: Breaking down Houston Rockets 2016-17 schedule vs west

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Next: Updated Free Agency Report

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