Why we should be optimistic about the Houston Rockets’ title hopes

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets James Harden Russell Westbrook (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Russell Westbrook Makes All the Difference

The addition of Russell Westbrook to the roster has been pretty successful so far, as he and Harden have combined to be one of the highest-scoring duos in league history, but we ultimately won’t be able to fully judge the move until the postseason. The Westbrook and Harden relationship has been very positive from what we’ve seen, which isn’t surprising considering their lifelong friendship.

One example of this came from the Rockets-Clippers matchup on Dec 19 when Patrick Beverley fouled out and Westbrook made it a point to go over and taunt him, maybe a little excessively. In this moment, Harden went over to grab him and try to bring his focus back onto the most important task at the time, which was closing the game out with a win.

Westbrook’s mentality, pace and energy have all had a very positive effect on this team as well. The Rockets have gone from being one of the slowest paced teams in the league last season to one of the fastest teams in the league this season. The increased pace has made the game easier for his teammates, as it has allowed them to score easier baskets. Not only that, the Rockets are currently top-two in the offensive rating and points per game categories.

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Westbrook has also helped the Rockets become a much better rebounding team this season, as they went from 24th in rebounds per game last year to fifth this season. On top of that, Harden and Westbrook have really figured out how to play off of one another and have displayed the newer version of themselves. Harden draws so much attention that Westbrook oftentimes gets to play 4-on-3, which has led to a lot of space to get into the lane and create plays.

On the flipside, Harden benefits from the pace Westbrook plays with because he trails the break for open 3-pointers and has gotten more catch-and-shoot looks this year than he has in a while.

Next: Reason No. 3