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Houston Rockets Hold Steady Without Howard

The Houston Rockets have gone 3-1 since Dwight Howard's injury climbing one spot in the Western Conference standings to third. The Toronto Raptors have passed the Rockets in the power rankings while the Grizzlies create space in the Southwest Division.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets are 3-1 in the four games Dwight Howard has missed straddling the announcement he's out for a month with a knee injury. In the last week that's 2-1.

The record helped the Rockets climb a spot in the Western Conference standings to third place. It's a small and temporary comfort undermined by the injury to Dwight Howard and the continued play of the Warriors and Grizzlies and oh yea... the Mavericks, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Clippers all continuing to dribble, shoot and make basketballs.

The return of Terrence Jones is a positive note. But this week's loss to the Detroit Pistons evidences how badly the Rockets need a center. Joey Dorsey can start all he wants, but he can't deliver more than 5 - 10 minutes of worthwhile time, even if he's on the court for 30 minutes. Not a positive development.

The sole consistent trend in the national power rankings this week is the rise of the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. In most cases the Raptors passed the Rockets. Houston slid a few spots in rankings that propelled the Raptors and Cavaliers and strangely rose in the places they were previously undervalued.

Here's what happened in the national power rankings this week:





ESPN 8 -2 2/2
SB Nation 7 -2 2/2
Yahoo! 5 -1 2/2
USA Today 6 -1 2/1
PBT/NBC 6 0 2/2
CBS Sports 7 +2 2/2
SI 5 -1 2/2

In the Southwest division the Memphis Grizzlies continue to create space from the Rockets. A four win week helped them expand their lead over the Rockets to three games. Kawhi Leonard appears to be priming the Spurs for a playoff seeding run.

The Mavericks had an opportunity to overtake the lead in the standings, but couldn't best Memphis or Houston during a five game week. Even though the NBA hasn't reached All-Star weekend it's already clear that playoff seeding means everything.

Memphis Grizzlies 36-12 0 4-0
Houston Rockets 33-15 3 2-1
Dallas Mavericks 33-17 4.0 3-2
San Antonio Spurs 30-18 6.0 1-1
New Orleans Pelicans 26-22 10.0 2-1

One thing is certain. James Harden's going to get his chance to win the MVP award in the next month.