After starting the New Year on a four game winning streak, the Rockets have dropped their last three games and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Dissecting the January schedule is far from pleasing. The NBA thought it would be a bright idea for the Rockets to have six pairs of back-to back games this month. If that’s not challenging enough, the month also includes 12 road games, five of which have been played. The Rockets have gone 2-3 so far, and have a 7-11 record on the road overall.
I won’t go into long previews about completed games this month since we have such great writers here at TDS who have done that extremely well (searching for acceptance) but a refresher course follows.
The back-to-backs started against the Bucks earlier this month. The Rockets struggled to score the basketball in the first half, and then quickly exploded for 68 second half points. They grabbed that victory 115-101 and jumped on a plane for Cleveland as they prepared to play Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers the next night. The Rockets took that game 112-104 after ending the second and fourth quarters with 34 points each.
A quick two day break for the team, and then it was the next pair of back-to-backs which included the L.A. Lakers, and New Orleans Hornets.
The Rockets headed into the Lakers game with nothing but momentum. The Lakers couldn’t fit into their big boy pants, so the Rockets wasted no time responding with a 125-112 victory over the struggling bunch. Chandler Parsons went 8/13 scoring 20 points, all while holding Kobe Bryant to just 20 points on 8/22 shooting. It’s always fun when the Rockets, the most inexpensive payroll ($47,520,563) in the association, beats the Lakers, the most expensive payroll ($100,087,153) in the association.
Unfortunately the Rockets were catching the Pelica…. I mean the Hornets next. Eric Gordon was back, and the Hornets were threatening to complete the Texas three-step with wins. It was a game that saw a Rockets team who averaged 106 points per game, score just 79 points, not to mention end the game with a 10 point fourth quarter. It was the first time the Hornets had won three straight games against Southwest Division opponents in consecutive games since joining the division.
Two days off again, you get the idea.
Pair number three, the Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets have had some fun games in Boston over the years; this really wasn’t one of them. The team continued its ways of hanging around and teasing us on this road trip. Final score was 103-91 another Rockets loss. The main culprit was the free throw line, where the Rockets went 12-29 for 41%. Omer Asik contributed seven misses on the night.
The 76ers game carried a similar feel. The Rockets offense and free throw shooting was better, but the defense collapsed several times. If you felt bad that Trindon Holliday was putting on a show for the Broncos and not the Texans, Jrue Holiday was inflicting a similar amount of pain on the Rockets. Holiday ended the night with 30 points and nine assists.
So here we are now. The Rockets are 21-17 and preparing for the next pair of back-to-backs that will bring the L.A. Clippers to town Tuesday night, followed by the Rockets traveling to Dallas for an ESPN game (OMG we all can watch legally) on Wednesday night.
The point guard matchup between the Clippers and Rockets may be an odd one. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported Jeremy Lin sprained his left ankle in practice and will be a game time decision. The LA times is reporting Chris Paul has a contusion in his right kneecap and is a game time decision against the Grizzlies. They also report there’s a good chance Paul will not play against the Rockets Tuesday night since this is a back-to-back scenario for the Clippers.
Then you guessed it, another two days off followed by the next back-to-back pairing featuring the Indiana Pacers on the 18th, and the Minnesota Timberwolves on the 19th. The Pacers are currently the best team in the Central Division, while the Timberwolves are fighting an injury-plagued season. Kevin Love is scheduled to have surgery on his right hand and will be out for 8-10 weeks
The Rockets will play a rare 1:00PM game against the Bobcats on Martin Luther King Day, followed by a Denver Nuggets arrival in Houston. Shockingly not a back-to-back, I know, how kind.
But wait there’s more! The 25th and 26th will feature the Hornets, and Brooklyn Nets on a back-to-back. The painful month will finally conclude as the Rockets travel to Utah on the 28th, where Jazz music is a mystery, and then travel to Denver on the 30th where “the beer flows like wine.”
So I ask for predications. What will the Rockets record be at the end of the month?
The Rockets obviously can’t sit and make excuses for a brutal schedule. What this young team can and will do, is learn from each game they play. February features just three back-to-back games, but surviving January will be the first task at hand.