While the Rockets did not bag a championship like their baseball brothers in 2017, the year was filled with a healthy amount of success for the team. There are many words that resonate with the year: historic, brilliant, incredible.
The year saw a change in ownership for the first time in a quarter-century and the arrival of another future Hall-of-Famer to the team.
While new faces arrived in the city of Houston, fan favorites and arguably the league’s greatest owner left Houston for new opportunities.
The year had its fair share of hurricane and heartbreak, but to combat the negative, the team had plenty of positives to celebrate, so here’s a look back at the ten best games in 2017.
10. Harden hits dramatic game-winner to beat Nuggets - March 20
Harden scores 39 points en route to a win at home against the Nuggets, which was the second game of a home-and-home series in which Houston swept Denver. This put the Nuggets into a shaky situation in the West while it all but cemented the Rockets’ position as the 3-seed in the West.
Houston led for most of the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets pulled ahead by a point with just 42 seconds to play. After Jameer Nelson missed a jumper, Harden grabbed the defensive board and I’ll let the Beard take it from here.
9. Chris Paul returns, Rockets score 90 in first half vs. Suns - November 16
The Rockets decided that they did not feel like missing in the first half against the Suns, and came out with an explosive 90-point first half. It had been the most points in a single half by any team in 27 seasons since the 1990-91 Rockets.
Not only was this a historic offensive night for the Rockets in Phoenix, but it was the return of Chris Paul, who missed the previous 14 games with a knee injury. This game also began a 14-game winning streak, the longest winning streak in franchise history since the 2007-08 Rockets won 22 straight.
This was in some ways the beginning of the Rockets making their mark on the season. CP3 was back and the other teams better take notice.
8. Eric Gordon GW vs. Sixers - October 25
The Rockets trailed for 90 percent of an early-season contest against the 76ers and trailed by as much as eight with less than two minutes to play. Then, a 9-0 run ensued that ended in an Eric Gordon corner three.
The Rockets barely got this play inbounds and Harden was taking the ball up from the top. It looked like a traditional Rockets play in which James would try to drive to the hoop in an attempt to get fouled and get some free throws. Instead, he kicked the ball out to EG, the reigning 3-Point Contest Champion. (Oh yeah, that happened in 2017, too.)
EG pump fake.
EG for three.
Ball goes in.
I remember writing the recap for this game expecting a loss, so I wrote the recap for the losing narrative. Once Gordon nails the game winner, he erased all my words.
Was I disappointed? Absolutely not.
7. Harden’s 56 vs. Jazz - November 5
James Harden has had many memorable games in Houston, and this one ranks right up there. With Calvin Murphy, the record-holder for a Rockets career-high, in the building, he could have easily passed the torch that evening.
Harden scored 22 in the first and had 54 through three. With the Rockets up 30 and Harden one away from breaking the record in front of the home crowd, Harden remained in the game.
However, for the first time all game, the team went cold. The team went over five minutes without scoring and ultimately Harden was pulled from the game to rest. Murphy is still the record holder, but he probably does not have much longer to hold onto it.
6. Rockets defeat Spurs in Game 1 - May 1
In the first playoff meeting since the 1995 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets wanted to jump out to an early lead against their in-state rival.
Not only did they jump out to an early lead, they raced out to it. The team led by as much as 37, and even though the team entered the series an underdog, they showed that they should not be treated as one.
San Antonio got the message and took four of the next five, but this game was easily one of the best Rockets moments of the year. It gave the team a true chance at possibly looking to face the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
5. Rockets incredible comeback vs. Jazz - December 18
It’s another re-appearance of the Jazz, the streak, and Eric Gordon.
The team looked tired, banged up, and it was looking like the streak had come to an end. But, the streak came back in its very little life it had left with a fourth quarter for the ages.
The Rockets outscored the Jazz 41-15 in the fourth and came back from down eight with nine minutes left to win by 21.
Three Eric Gordon triples put the Rockets in the lead for good and he ended up with 17 points in the fourth quarter.
It brought the streak to 14 games and the Rockets looked like a team that was truly unstoppable — until they would go on to lose four straight games, but that’s beside the point. In that quarter, Houston was unable to be stopped.
4. Rockets open up playoffs with big win - April 16
The Rockets opened up the playoffs against the Thunder and Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden was the marquee matchup.
However, the one who stole the show might have been Patrick Beverley, who put together one of the most pure Bev performances ever as a Rocket. Bev locked Westbrook up all night and had 21 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
Bev’s performance in Game 1 set the tone for the series that the Rockets would take in five games. It was perhaps his most magical moment as a Rocket, his final stroke of grit before he was traded over the summer.
3. Rockets advance over Thunder, win series in five games - April 25
47 points from Russell Westbrook was not enough for the Thunder to beat the Rockets in the decisive fifth game which was a relief for the Rockets.
The Thunder had been a thorn in the Rockets’ side all series long, but they finally found a way to edge out a series win. Harden had another terrific game with 34 points and Lou Williams had his best game as a Rocket in the postseason putting 22 on the board.
The victory marked a celebration as the Rockets would advance to the Conference Semifinals for just the fourth time since the Rockets won the championship back in 1995.
2. Rockets come back and steal Game 4 from Thunder - April 23
The reason this game ranks ahead of the Game 5 clincher is the fashion in how the win occurred. Houston had trailed for majority of the game and faced a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. However, the Rockets played a solid fourth quarter and successfully swiped away a victory in Oklahoma City.
This has also been Nene’s finest moment as a Rocket so far. He scored 28 points on 12-12 shooting and picked up the slack when guys like James Harden and Clint Capela were struggling. The win shifted total momentum in the series and gave the Rockets the edge they needed to close them out two nights later back in Houston.
1. Rockets open season with win in Oakland - October 18
The Rockets were down by as many as 17 in the second half and were trailing by 13 entering the fourth quarter. The scene was opening night as the Rockets remained in the shadows to watch the Warriors get the championship rings they earned in June.
Houston was clearly motivated by this as the team made many moves in the offseason to try and challenge the Warriors for the title. P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Chris Paul made their Rockets debuts, and while CP3 left the game with a knee injury, P.J. and LMAM each shot 6-9 and Tucker made four triples.
The reason why the win over the Warriors ranks as the top of the list is not just for its clever comeback and victory over the team’s current top competition. This win is all about the future and what the team is chasing in 2018. 2017 was all about taking a step in the right direction, which it was. 2018 will be about taking another step towards that coveted ring and this win was a sign that the Rockets are setting themselves up for that chance. This win could be a sign of what is to come for the team in the upcoming year and we hope that this win was a sign of what the future holds.