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Breaking down the final eight games for the Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets will be facing eight different teams when their season resumes on July 31st. Here’s a breakdown of how they stack up with each one.

The NBA schedule recently was released that details the remaining eight regular season games for the Houston Rockets.  When games pick back up, James Harden and company will be right in the thick of things in the Western Conference, and they now know who they will be facing as they look to secure a higher seed going into the playoffs.

According to Ben Dowsett of Forbes Sports, the schedules were tweaked from what was originally thought.

RE NBA schedule release: I've heard the "next 8 games on the original schedule among teams in Orlando" template that was initially reported was used as a rough baseline – but then tweaked in several spots to better reflect each team's remaining SOS at the time of the shutdown.

— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) June 26, 2020

On deck for Mike D’Antoni’s squad are the following opponents: The Mavericks, Bucks, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Kings, Spurs, Pacers and 76ers. It’s important to remember that every team will have a tougher schedule now that the bottom eight teams have been eliminated from contention.

With two fresh superstars in Harden and Russell Westbrook training hard and ready to go, the pressure will be on Houston to reach their ultimate goal of finally taking the NBA championship back to the city.

Here’s a look at how the Houston Rockets have matched up with each of these opponents recently and what to expect.

Next: Mavericks and Bucks

Luka Doncic P.J. Tucker (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Luka Doncic P.J. Tucker (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks

Head-to-Head this season: 1-1 Last 10 games: 7-3, Rockets

The Rockets have had a lot of success against the Dallas Mavericks in recent years. Houston went 8-0 against Dallas from 2016-18, split the series with them last year, and are split with them so far this season.

Luka Doncic has emerged as a legitimate superstar this season, tallying 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game through 54 games, which helped him nab his first of likely many NBA All-Star selections.

Related Story. 5 Reasons Luka/Harden comparisons must stop

The Rockets, of course, have quite a few All-Star appearances between their players themselves, and it’s hard to imagine the media’s repeated comparisons of Doncic and Harden won’t at least be in James’ mind at least a little bit.

Doncic wasn’t available to play in their last loss to the Rockets, so Mike D’Antoni won’t be able to rely on the gameplan from his squad’s January win over Dallas for showdown number three.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Head-to-Head this season: 1-0, Bucks Last 10 games: 5-5

While the main storyline should be two title contenders meeting, it’s hard to ignore the tension that James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have established between themselves. It was already enough that Giannis took home the MVP award that many have said Harden should’ve been awarded.

To further escalate things, however, Giannis then took some shots at Harden’s defense during this season’s All-Star weekend, which Harden eventually responded to. While they have since seemed to cool down the beef between them, the competitiveness of both stars and teams should make for a very entertaining second matchup.

3 Things Harden could learn from Last Dance. Related Story

The Houston Rockets have drastically changed since their opening night 117-111 loss to the Bucks in October. The biggest key to a Houston victory here will be a full-team effort to bully Giannis out of the paint and limit the effectiveness of 7-foot tall Brook Lopez on the glass.

Next: Blazers, Lakers, & Kings

Damian Lillard Russell Westbrook (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard Russell Westbrook (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Head-to-Head this season: 2-1, Blazers Last 10 games: 6-4, Rockets

While all eight of the Rockets’ remaining games will have their own intriguing storylines, this one might have the most. From the rivalry between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook to Portland’s push to prove last year’s Conference Finals appearance wasn’t a fluke, there will be a lot of intensity in this one.

After the superstar duo of Harden and Westbrook combined for 64 to stomp the Blazers last November by a score of 132-108, Lillard and C.J. McCollum helped Portland get revenge. The Trail Blazers defeated Houston both home and away in January, each time by double digits.

With the kind of backcourt battles these two teams always have, this has the potential to be the most entertaining of all eight games. Harden and Russell must outshine Portland’s star backcourt to come away with a season split.

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Head-to-Head this season: 1-1 Last 10 games: 7-3, Rockets

One of the best games of the Rockets’ shortened season was their first game after the deal that sent Clint Capela away for Robert Covington. The Los Angeles Lakers simply were not prepared for Houston’s micro ball approach and could not stop Russell Westbrook all game long.

Covington fit the team like a glove in his return to Houston, burying 4-of-7 from downtown and terrorizing the Lakers on the defensive end of the floor. He also hit huge shots late in the game to seal the 121-111 victory for the Rockets.

McHale isn't a believer in the Lakers. Related Story

With such a long layoff, it’s highly likely that rust will be a huge factor when the Rockets and Lakers meet again to restart the season. Both teams have shown an ability to win on their opponents’ floor but what about a neutral site? Give the wackiness of this whole scenario, this game is impossible to predict but will be an extremely welcome sight.

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings

Head-to-Head this season: 1-1 Last 10 games: 8-2, Rockets

The Sacramento Kings haven’t been much of a problem for the Rockets for a long time now. Before this season, Houston had won 18 of 20 against Sacramento, which included two streaks of seven straight victories.

The Rockets definitely should have gone 2-0 against Sacramento this season if not for a blown defensive play that allowed for a buzzer-beater from Nemanja Bjelica, but that just goes to show how unpredictable the NBA can be.

Houston must establish themselves early against the Kings in their third matchup, as keeping a young, hungry team around is always dangerous. This will also be the first time the Rockets will face the Kings with Robert Covington on their squad, which should help against Sacramento’s young core.

Holding De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield in check will be key for a Rockets’ victory that should be pretty straightforward.

Next: Spurs, Pacers, & 76ers

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Head-to-head this season: 1-1 Last 10 games: 7-3, Rockets

The Houston Rocket eventually got revenge for a double-overtime loss to the Spurs in which a James Harden dunk wasn’t counted, but it wouldn’t hurt to do it again. The San Antonio Spurs have virtually nothing to play for, as their chances of making the playoffs were already slim and became even worse when LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out for the season.

Aldridge has been a Rocket killer since his days in Portland, which has carried over to his days in San Antonio, so Houston shouldn’t have too difficult of a time in this one. With the game being on the tail-end of the schedule, the Spurs may already be out of the running for the ninth seed by this point as well.

Still, San Antonio has DeMar DeRozan, a good young core of Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Derrick White, and of course, Gregg Popovich.

James Harden Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
James Harden Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers

Head-to-Head this season: 1-0, Rockets Last 10 games: 7-3, Rockets

The Rockets are on a five-game winning streak against the Indiana Pacers overall, with their last victory coming at home last November. As usual, James Harden dominated the matchup, shooting 13-of-26 from the field to finish with 44 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Houston did a great job of contesting Indiana’s outside shots in that game, holding them to just 8-of-33.

T.J. Warren has played like a borderline All-Star this season, averaging 18.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Malcolm Brogdon has also become a tremendous facilitator, bumping up his 3.6 assists per game in Milwaukee to 7.1 in Indiana.

Still, the one-two punch of Harden and Westbrook should be too much for the Pacers young club if they come to play.

P.J. Tucker Ben Simmons Clint Capela (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
P.J. Tucker Ben Simmons Clint Capela (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Head-to-Head this season: 1-0, Rockets Last 10 games: 8-2

This matchup is going to be a true test of Houston’s ability to contain an elite big. While they did a good job on Anthony Davis, they have yet to face Joel Embiid without the services of Clint Capela. In their 118-108 victory of the 76ers in January, Capela hung 30 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in 36 minutes.

Embiid was also held to 20 points on 7-of-17 from the field, but his post moves and ability to establish inside positioning could pose a problem for the Rockets without Clint. Houston’s strategy of switching everything and essentially having all guys play all positions will be crucial in containing Embiid and Ben Simmons.

On the other side, the 76ers haven’t had much of an answer for James Harden recently, as he’s put up 44, 31 and 37 points in their last three meetings.

Ranking 31 international players in Rockets history. Next

Look for Robert Covington to have a good game in this one, as facing old teams is frequently an extra motivator. This game will be a toss-up that will likely depend on how well the Rockets can make up for their lack of rebounding and interior presence by shooting lights out.

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