Last night, the Rockets’ longest winning streak since their historic 22-game run in 2008 was snapped after 10 games. Before the streak, Houston was 11-7 and barely sniffing the playoff picture. Now, this team stands at 21-8 and looks like a contender to challenge the Warriors and Spurs in the West.
This streak started with Houston’s best win of the year. A double-overtime thriller against Golden State forced teams to pay attention. It showed the rather high ceiling that the Rockets could accomplish this season, and what followed was also quite remarkable.
Road wins in Denver, Oklahoma City and Minnesota were all very impressive, and they had a few gimmes with the Kings, Mavericks, and Lakers. A few close calls against Brooklyn and Boston helped round out this 10-game stretch for Houston and helped them shoot up the ladder in the Western Conference. The only teams ahead of them now are the Warriors, the team that started this streak, and the Spurs, the team that ended it.
Last night’s loss against the Spurs was tough, especially since the Rockets had a double-digit lead late in the fourth quarter. This was the first game of many that the Rockets will be without Clint Capela this season. Houston was a different team without Capela last night; the pick-and-roll was not as effective with Nene as it was with Capela. Now, at least for the time being, Houston will have to lean on its other scoring methods a little more. .
There were games during this streak, most notably the last two in Minnesota and against San Antonio, where the Rockets were ice cold from three. The Rockets were able to get back into a rhythm late against Minnesota, but failed to do so against San Antonio. These two games were coming off the New Orleans game, where the team made an NBA-record 24 threes.
When you live by the three, you die by the three, and the Rockets understand that risk. However, if you do have as three-point-centric of an offense as Houston’s, you better have a Plan B, and it seemed like it was executed decently last night. Despite Capela’s absence, the team was still able to score frequently in the paint. James Harden, Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon were able to drive in and take a smarter shot when they knew their deep shot was off.
This was not a bad loss; they lost to a 23-5 team by two points after 10 straight wins in one of their worst shooting performances of the season. This streak had a little bit of everything: records, comebacks, overtimes, upsets and demolitions. It proved Houston can tussle with the best in the West and is a team that should be taken seriously.
The Rockets had to fight hard through 14 road games in their first 20 and it turned them into a much more cohesive unit. This streak gave Mike D’Antoni opportunities to get his team to adjust mid-game and pull out different ways to win. It further strengthened a chemistry that was already one of the strongest in the league, and now Houston is in a great position in the middle of December.
All good things must come to an end, but they allow other good things to happen as well. Tonight they can start another winning streak as they visit the Suns. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CT.