The Houston Rockets are sitting half-a game outside of second in the Western Conference and are primed to keep ascending in the standings this week.
After a rare four-day break, the Houston Rockets return to the court this week for three games, with two being on the road. Winners of two straight, James Harden and the Rockets will look to continue their quality play with a road trip to Atlanta to face the last-place Hawks.
The turnaround will be quick for Houston, as they travel to Oklahoma City the next night for a primetime matchup with the Thunder on TNT. Laying in wait for the Rockets on Saturday afternoon will be Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have had a disappointing start to the season.
In a Western Conference full of heavyweight contenders, every game counts toward the Rockets’ ultimate goal for NBA glory in June. If the team can focus and play how they’re capable of playing, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be 27-11 by the week’s end.
Still, the games are played for a reason, so let’s dive into how I believe the Rockets will fare on the upcoming stretch.
Houston Rockets @ Atlanta Hawks – Jan 8th, 7:30 p.m. ET
The last time these two teams met, James Harden scored a season-high 60 points and Mike D’Antoni‘s offense put up an insane 158 points. The Rockets’ 31-point fourth quarter was somehow their lowest in the game as they dominated the Hawks by a score of 158-111.
Despite Trae Young‘s star power, the Hawks are having an abysmal year, which is reflected in their position at last in the NBA. Atlanta is currently dead last in 3-point percentage and turnovers and 29th in rebounding. They also are allowing 117.2 points per game, which is better than only the Washington Wizards this season.
Even though Russell Westbrook is sitting this one out due to the back-to-back rule the team is enforcing, there’s no reason the Rockets should struggle in this one.
Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder – Jan 9th, 9:30 p.m. ET
The Rockets are clearly a superior team to the Thunder, but this has all the feelings of a trap game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as a legit NBA talent, Chris Paul is being Chris Paul, and the Thunder are playing well as of late. The last time these two teams met, OKC put up a good fight at the Toyota Center before ultimately falling 116-112.
Look for Russell Westbrook to show up big when he faces his old squad, especially considering the game will be on TNT. The Brodie was one assist shy of recording a triple-double in their first meeting, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
The Thunder surprisingly outscored the Rockets from the 3-point last time around (13 to 10 makes). While I wouldn’t expect that to be the case again, OKC only allows 31.3 outside attempts per game, which is the third-fewest in the NBA. If Oklahoma City can stay close with Houston’s high-octane outside shooting, I could see them taking this game in a close one at home.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets – Jan 11th, 5 p.m. ET
James Harden absolutely dominated the first time the Rockets faced off against the Wolves from the Target Center, but then again, when’s the last time he hasn’t dominated? The Beard put up 49 points on 16-of-41 from the field to go along with six rebounds and six assists in that contest.
As a team, Houston scored 57 points from beyond the arc back in meeting one, going 19-for-49 in the game. Chris Clemons accounted for five of those long-range bombs, hitting five of his nine attempts.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are undoubtedly a tough pair to deal with, but even their consistency has been off throughout the season. Minnesota just simply doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with Clutch City, and I expect much of the same when they visit on the 11th.
A 2-1 record for the week would be decent, but considering the team’s capabilities, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a 3-0 run heading into the second half of January.
Houston Rockets basketball is finally almost back, and it all starts Wednesday at 7:30 pm ET from Atlanta.