Looking at the Rockets
Writer: Lucas Garza
Over the past couple months, the Rockets have been led by James Harden. With recurring injuries to Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, and a freak accident of a thumb injury to Clint Capela, the Rockets have had to rely on Harden’s isolation and dribble step backs to win games.
The Rockets had to make roster moves to combat the injury problem, so on Christmas Eve, and they were able to sign Austin Rivers as a free agent. Rivers fit in right away, only coming off the bench in the Christmas Day game, and starting the majority since.
The native Houstonian, Danuel House, had been playing surprisingly well for Houston and played his way onto the starting line up. But House used up all the NBA games on his two-way contract by January, and the two parties were unable to agree on a deal that would keep House on board until the end of the season. He was dropped down to the Rio Grande Valley.
After Capela got hurt, Houston had to get another big man besides Nene, who was only playing about every other game in the first place. The Rockets decided to sign another free agent. This time, it was Nene’s look alike, Kenneth Faried, who had an immediate impact on the team with his explosive dunks and getting a technical after his first points with the team.
At the trade deadline, Houston decided to get rid of Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, and James Ennis III, all of whom played very little and turned the ball over a ton when they did.
In exchange, the Rockets acquired, Wade Baldwin IV, Nik Stauskas, and Iman Shumpert. Stauskas and Baldwin were quickly traded to Indiana, where they would be waived. Stauskas later signed with Cleveland.
With Gordon and Paul both trying to get back into the rhythm of the line up, the Rockets took on the OKC Thunder at home Saturday night, a team who they took care of in a close game on Christmas Day. Paul George had another stellar performance for the Thunder, and would be the leading MVP candidate if it weren’t for the astonishing consistent performances that James Harden has been putting on since December.
Harden scored 42 points, and has now scored at least 30 in 29 consecutive games. He missed some key three’s down the stretch, but he had to take them because Eric Gordon was not making the spot up three’s that he normally does.
As the Rockets were down by three, they tried to inbound the ball to Gerald Green for one of his famous off balance corner three’s, but Steven Adams deflected the ball and Green could not handle it as it went out of bounds. The Thunder would win 117- 112.
On Monday night, the Rockets faced the Mavericks in Houston. The Rockets held the lead from beginning to end, and the only real drama was whether or not Harden would score 30 points to record his 30th straight game of doing so. With less than four minutes left on the clock, Harden only had 20, but after two steals and an and-one three, he was able to get to 28 with under a minute left. He then buried a deep three from the top left wing to secure his 30th straight game with at least 30 points, and ran down the court with a massive grin on his face. Houston beat Dallas 120-104.
The Rockets are currently in the 5th spot in the West at 33-23. Their next three games will be on national TV starting on Thursday on the road against LA Lakers and Golden State.