The Houston Rockets have now won three games in a row and have put together some very impressive defensive efforts. Are they back to the Rockets of old?
The Rockets started the year 1-5, and after just six games, many people were ready to write this team off for the rest of the season. But Houston is starting to turn things around.
On Monday night, the Rockets defeated the Indiana Pacers, one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, 98-94. James Harden led the way with 28 points. Clint Capela turned in another double-double, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Paul struggled again from the field, but he did set up his teammates, dishing out a game-high 13 assists over the course of 37 minutes.
For Indiana, Victor Oladipo showed once again that he is one of the best clutch performers in the league, as he scored 8 points in the final three minutes of the game. However, a timely 3-pointer from Harden off a Paul feed with 36 seconds left in the game put Houston ahead 93-90. The following possession, Harden came up clutch again after knocking the ball out of Oladipo’s hands as he was driving down the lane.
Paul split the pair at the line and Oladipo quickly drilled a 3-pointer at the other end, bringing Indiana within one point. But Houston’s defense and four clutch free throws from Harden sealed a Rockets win.
It was a great late game battle between two guards that were traded away from Oklahoma City and had breakout seasons with their new teams. In the end, the MVP came out on top.
Are the Rockets back?
The Rockets have now strung together three wins in a row, even with Gordon missing two of those games and Harden sitting out one. After such a slow start, are the Rockets finally back?
The truth is that it’s still too early to tell.
Yes, the Rockets have won three consecutive games, but they still haven’t had any of the dominant performances from beginning to end that we saw last season.
The Rockets trailed by as much as 14 points against Brooklyn before rallying behind Paul and coming back for the win. Houston played solid defense against Chicago, in the second half at least, but they struggled to find their footing on offense against the second worst defensive team in the NBA. Houston’s win against Indiana is by far their most impressive of the season, but their offense still lacks the same rhythm and flow that we’ve grown accustomed to in the Mike D’Antoni era.
These last three wins were very gritty, which is exactly what you want to see out of a team with such lofty aspirations. It’s impressive that Houston has held their opponents to 94 points or less over the last two games. However, it’s also troubling that the Rockets haven’t been able to score at least 100 points over the last two games, even with Harden in the lineup.
Now that Jeff Bzdelik is back on Houston’s sidelines as a defensive coordinator of sorts, hopefully Houston’s defense won’t look as horrid going forward as it did in the beginning of the season. And you can’t expect a roster with players like Harden, Paul, Capela, Carmelo Anthony and Eric Gordon to struggle on offense for long, especially with Mike D’Antoni running the show.
The Rockets will face some stiff competition in the next five games, with meetings against Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Indiana, Denver and Golden State next on the schedule. If they can get their offense back on track, keep the grit on defense and escape the next five games with a positive record, then they’ll be on the right track.