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Houston Rockets primed to make leap in standings for Christmas

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets continue their west coast trip with three very winnable games in five days, concluding with a Christmas showdown against Golden State.

Going into Saturday’s matchup with the Phoenix Suns, the Houston Rockets are currently one of three teams in the Western Conference with nine losses. At 19-9, the Rockets stand at fifth in the West but are within one game of sitting at number two. After starting their Pacific road trip off with their best win of the season against the LA Clippers, three more showdowns with Pacific division teams should land the Rockets in a better position come the holiday.

The next three opponents for H-Town are the Suns, Kings and Warriors, all of which are sitting well below .500 on the season. Phoenix is currently free-falling in the standings, losing their last five straight, while the Kings have lost two in a row of their own. So far, the Rockets have been taking care of business against teams that are below .500, going 13-3 in 16 encounters.

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While there have been expected doubts from the national media about how seriously they should be taking the Rockets, Thursday’s win at the Staples Center showed exactly what the team is capable of. If Mike D’Antoni is able to get his team to play with close to the focus they had in the fourth quarter against Kawhi Leonard and company, Houston should easily be sitting at 22-9 by Christmas’s end.

Looking at the schedules of the teams directly above Houston gives more hope that the Rockets could make a jump soon. The Dallas Mavericks are facing a tough road game in Toronto on Sunday followed by a home showdown with the Spurs, who can’t exactly be written off yet, especially with Luka Doncic not in the lineup.

The Clippers also have a showdown with San Antonio, visiting the Spurs on Saturday. Kawhi is 0-2 in the Alamo City since his controversial departure from Gregg Popovich and co, and both have been blowouts. The Clips follow that up with a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder the following day, who have won their last three games. On Christmas Day, an all-LA showdown with the West-leading Lakers will also be a tough test for the Clippers.

Two of the next three games for the Denver Nuggets are against below .500 teams in Phoenix and New Orleans, however, there’s a good chance they could tally their ninth loss of the season with a visit to the Lakers on Sunday.

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It feels strange, but Rockets fans should actually be rooting for the Lakers and Spurs this week. With execution and a little help, Houston could just be gifting their fans a spot at number two as the new year approaches.

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