I know it's preseason, but the Rockets are playing against some good foes in these games that don't matter. In addition to playing their four division opponents, the Rockets get the NBA champs Golden State Warriors, as well as two teams that have given them trouble in the last two seasons: the Magic and the Suns.
The Rockets needed a game-winner in one game and a beastly fourth quarter from James Harden to get two wins in Phoenix. Meanwhile, Orlando outplayed the Rockets for seven of the eight quarters that these teams played against each other last year. The Magic ended a four-game winning streak for the Rockets and then Orlando led heading into the fourth quarter in Houston later in the season.
What makes Orlando and Phoenix tough for Houston? Well, both teams are young and depend on individual talent to generate offense. Meanwhile, Houston has defensive studs but mostly relies on a team system on defense.
Furthermore, both of those teams are young and can go on streaks at the drop of a hat. Countless times last season we saw Houston take a lead into the fourth quarter only to see it dry up while Harden took a rest on the bench. Certain teams have the ability to keep those runs going through adrenaline and athleticism.
We won't learn much from this game, but something to keep in mind this season is the fear factor that the Rockets don't currently inspire around the league. When the Spurs take a lead on teams in the second half, the opposing team almost always folds. The Warriors go on mini-runs and their opponents seem like they can't wait to get out of the building. Houston needs to get to a point where teams fear them too. Easier said than done.
Tip-off is at 7pm CST and can be seen on Root Sports.
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