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Houston Rockets vs. Charlotte Hornets game preview

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The Rockets look to avoid their first 3-game losing streak when the Charlotte Hornets come to town.

James: Just relax. Josh: Um, this is awkward.
James: Just relax. Josh: Um, this is awkward.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

I'm tempted to write another knee-jerk preview, even though I've done one already. "Josh Smith sucks! Why is he starting??? The Rockets are 1-2 with him and Detroit is 3-0! Morey is Cuban's bitch!"

Maybe the Rockets should fold up the franchise and give the good people of Seattle their Sonics back. Or maybe we can appreciate a team that is throwing new pieces together and trying to figure it out on the fly. I would suggest listening to the latest RocketsCast Live podcast if you haven't done so already. Daryl Morey comes on and talks about things that are logical.

The Rockets haven't looked fantastic in this stretch. The starters are probably more to blame than the bench, which is crazy. The good news is that we know the starters are good and that these bad stretches won't possibly continue, even with Josh. But if this bench from the last couple of games is the bench that Houston is going to have for the rest of the year, then everyone needs to watch out for the Rockets. I know patience is something easier preached than lived, but December and January are better times for it than March and April.

The Hornets are coached by Steve Clifford, who was Jeff van Gundy's assistant coach in Houston. Get ready for Bill Worrell and Matt Bullard to tell us about this at least 5 times tonight.

Since the league brought back games on New Year's Eve about 10 years ago, the Rockets have always had a home game on December 31. Until last year against the Kings, Houston was perfect in those game. Houston will now hope to start a new streak of wins on New Year's Eve that someone will mention in a few years and you'll think "That's a stupid thing to keep track of." And you will be right.

Schedule breakdown: Both teams played on Monday, with the Rockets losing to Washington at home and Charlotte losing to the Bucks in OT at home.

And Happy New Year to everyone from us at The Dream Shake!

Tip off is at 6pm CST. It's a special early tip tonight.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Kemba Walker

Walker has scored 70 points in his last two games. After dropping 42 on 15-31 shooting against the Magic, he scored 28 against the Bucks. He's averaging 8 FTA in his last five games so there's definitely efficiency as part of those scores.

Walker has a flair for the dramatics late in games, thus earning the nickname "Kardiac Kemba." So Houston won't want the game to be close late. Though Harden and Kemba dueling late could be a ton of fun for the neutral fan.

Advantage: Hornets

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Gerald Henderson

Henderson's last five games' point totals (from past to most recent): 4, 20, 2, 7, 19. With Lance Stephenson out with a pelvic strain, Henderson has been getting extra minutes. Not that Lance was doing well before the injury I guess.

In a crazy alternate universe, what would happen if Lance was cut by the Hornets a la Josh Smith? Would the Rockets go after him? Is there a playoff contender where he fits best? Probably the Clippers I guess, but what do you think?

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

I'm a big supporter of MKG and thought the Hornets did the right thing picking him where they did. It's easy to look back and say, "They should have taken Voldemort, Drummond, or Bradley Beal." But most of us figured the Kentucky product would be the best player there.

He's got a reputation as a defensive player. I don't watch enough Hornets games to know if that's true.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Josh Smith vs. Marvin Williams

In the Hornets' last game, they started Zeller and Al Jefferson together. However, Jefferson suffered a groin strain and will miss the next four weeks, starting tonight. I assume Williams will start here since he played the most minutes off the bench for the Hornets in their last game. We could also see Biyombo here too.

Advantage: Rockets

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Cody Zeller

Yet another player I liked coming out of college, but he may have been taken too high. He's averaging 8/5 in his second season and is a hustle guy for them.

In college he ran the floor well and was one of the most athletic bigs in the country. Most knew that wouldn't completely translate to the NBA, but it's clear that he's still a productive player with a long future in the league.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Propeller Plane, Donatas Motiejunas, Corey BrewerJoey Dorsey

Hornets: Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Brian Roberts, P.J. Hairston, Gary Neal

Advantage: Rockets

Prediction: Houston wins 102-89

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