3. 6 game stretch from Nov. 13 to Nov. 22
The Rockets will enter their first tough stretch less than a month into the season. Between Nov. 13 and Nov. 22, they will face the new-look Clippers at home before Indiana makes their trip down to Houston. After the Rockets face the Pacers on the 15th, they will take a three-hour flight up north to face the Timberwolves the following night. Then, Houston will fly back home to take on the Blazers on Nov. 18 before flying out again to take on the Nuggets in Denver and ending this tough stretch against the Clippers in LA on the 22nd.
The Clippers had perhaps the most successful offseason of any team, as they essentially swapped Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (along with a ton of picks) for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They added two superstars, including the reigning Finals MVP, without gutting the team’s depth.
Neither the Pacers or Timberwolves will be elite teams next season, but that doesn’t mean Houston will just run to easy victories. The Pacers were just two wins away from a 50-win season last year despite losing Victor Oladipo way back in January. While the Wolves probably won’t be a playoff team, the Rockets will have to fly to Minnesota to face them on the second half of a back-to-back, which is often the time when a bad team has the best shot at beating a great team. Not to mention, the Rockets actually lost both of their games in Minneapolis last season.
After that, the Rockets will fly back home to take on the Blazers, a team that added even more depth with the additions of Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside after matching Houston in wins last season. The Blazers won two of their three matchups with Houston last season.
Then, the Rockets will fly to Denver to take on the Nuggets. The Nuggets’ altitude advantage in the Mile High City is no joke, as they actually led the league in wins at home with 34, despite having only the fourth best record in the NBA last season. The Rockets won three of their four games against the Nuggets, but they finished 1-1 in games played in Denver. Finally, Houston will finish this six game stretch with a rematch against the Clippers, but they’ll play at Staples Center this time.
While this is a tough stretch for Houston, the Rockets are more than capable of winning most of these games, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished 3-3 over this stretch.
Next: No. 2: Jan. 15-29