The Houston Rockets have won four games in a row against good teams. Are they really back this time? Or will they slip back into their old habits again?
Currently, the Houston Rockets are on the upswing in what has been a very turbulent season. Houston has already lost 14 of their first 29 games, after losing just 15 games last season. They have also suffered four game losing streaks twice along with one three game losing streak.
However, Houston has turned things around in the last week. The Rockets have won four games in a row, with three of those victories coming against opponents that would be in the postseason if the playoffs started today. Houston’s offense and defense has improved over this four game streak. The Rockets have held their opponents to just 97 points in each of the last two games.
James Harden has flipped the switch in recent outings, which recently earned him the Western Conference Player of the Week. After dropping a game-high 47 points on Utah Monday night, The Beard is now averaging 39.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.5 steals on 51.1 percent shooting from the field.
With Chris Paul and Eric Gordon struggling, Harden has picked up the slack and carried Houston to victory. So, are the Rockets back to the team we saw last year? Or do they still have a lot of progress to make?
Are the Rockets back?
Are the Houston Rockets back this time? In short, I don’t know.
It’s been great to see Houston win four games in a row, because the multiple losing streaks this team has suffered have been hard to watch. Beating the Blazers, Lakers, a retooled Grizzlies squad and the Jazz in consecutive games isn’t an easy feat. But I’m not convinced the Rockets have escaped their early season woes just yet.
Chris Paul hasn’t looked right this season and he’s averaging just 11.5 points on 26.2 percent shooting in the last four games. Eric Gordon is averaging only 10.8 points on 37.5 percent shooting over the win streak, even though he replaced James Ennis is the starting lineup.
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Paul and Gordon aren’t just in a slump, because they have both consistently underperformed the entire season. These guys are Houston’s second and third options and if they don’t increase their production, the Rockets will have a hard time keeping their heads above the water.
The Rockets won three games in a row between Nov. 02 and Nov. 05, but they followed that up by dropping two games in a row. Then, they won five consecutive games between Nov. 11 and Nov. 21, defeating Denver and Golden State, the top teams in the Western Conference. The Rockets followed that win streak by dropping four games in a row, losing to the Cavaliers and the 12-18 Wizards in the process.
It’s hard to trust this team because they aren’t very consistent on either side of the ball. Sometimes they shoot well from 3-point range and take care of the ball, and then the next game they play like a lottery team. They held the Nuggets and Warriors to 99 points and 86 points in consecutive games, and then gave up 117 points to the Cavs and 135 points to the Wizards in consecutive games a week later.
James Harden isn’t going to average 39.5 points and shoot over 50 percent from the floor for the rest of the season. Someone, particularly Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, has to step up and contribute night in and night out for the Rockets to win consistently. But that hasn’t happened this season.
The Rockets may very well be out of their funk, but I won’t get my hopes up too quickly this time around. The Rockets don’t have to go on a double digit win streak to prove they’re back, but they have to play great basketball for longer than four or five games before they can get back to contender status again.