Best Mid-Season Matchups
Wednesday December 25th: Houston @ Golden State (ABC).
Obviously this is a Christmas Day game with a huge national audience, and obviously it is a rivalry game, but it is also Houston’s first look at Golden State’s brand new arena in San Francisco. Oracle Arena was notoriously loud and difficult to win at, and the new arena is likely to be no different. Stephen Curry has a lousy Christmas Day record: 3 wins, 4 losses, 12ppg, 29% shooting, never scored more than 20 points. Don’t be surprised if he bucks this trend this season.
Thursday January 9th: Houston @ Oklahoma City (Turner Network).
This will likely be one of the most emotional games of the season as Russell Westbrook returns to his former team. Until just a few weeks ago the Thunder had never existed without Westbrook; he stayed when KD left, he never entertained the idea of leaving, he united his team and he made the city fall in love with him and its new franchise.
No matter what happens in Houston, Russ will always be an OKC legend first and foremost. That doesn’t mean he won’t be trying to dunk on Steven Adams, break Andre Roberson’s ankles, and flex on Billy Donovan, because that’s just the elite competitor he is. For the raw emotion, and for the extra hype Westbrook will bring to this game, this is a must see for any basketball fan.
Saturday January 18th: Houston vs. LA Lakers (ABC).
Houston won’t get their first look at LeBron James’ new-look Laker squad until late-January, but it will be worth the wait. How will Clint Capela fare as the lone big going against a gigantic lineup? Will 6’6 PJ Tucker be able to play small-ball center? Can Harden and Westbrook’s pace give Houston a bigger edge than the Lakers will get from their extra size? Tune in for a potential Western Conference Finals preview.
Monday January 27th: Houston @ Utah (NBA TV).
Utah has exited the playoffs in five games at the hands of the Rockets in consecutive seasons, but adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic gives them a chance to turn this into a real rivalry. Russell Westbrook’s verbal altercation with racist Jazz fans last season adds more fuel to the fire, as does Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert’s playful Twitter banter over the off-season. Utah is a notoriously hostile environment for opposing teams – just ask Russ – and the players and home crowd will likely be desperate to win this game more than any other on their 2019-20 calendar. Keep an eye on Vernon Maxwell’s Twitter account for this one too!
I'd like 2 apologize Jazz fans that were offended by my tweets. If I knew u guys had internet in Utah I would've never made those tweets.
— Vernon Maxwell (@VernonMaxwell11) March 9, 2017
Friday January 31st: Houston vs Dallas (ESPN).
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can breathe some life back into this cross-state rivalry this season when they come to H-Town. A nationally televised game against an old rival with arguably the best young duo in the league will be a spectacle to enjoy. Houston had many great battles with Dirk Nowitzki over the last two decades, and now the torch has been passed on to these two young stars to keep the rivalry alive.
Next: Best Late Season Matchup