The month of January was not especially kind to the Houston Rockets.
Once the darlings of the NBA, they are starting to falter a little bit over the past month. Before January, the Rockets blew through preseason expectations as they jumped out to a 26-9 record which was good enough to give them the third best record in the NBA.
Over the past month, the Rockets slowed down quite a bit. They were still over .500 but just barely; as they went 10-7 in the first month of 2017.
Luckily for the Rockets, most the other teams in the NBA are also having a funky January; only the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics have more than 10 wins this month. When the 76ers have the fourth-best record in January, you know it's a strange month.
It seems that most of the Rockets problems are due to a crazy packed first half of the season and not having much rest (they lead the league in games played). But the real problem is the defense, which was solid the first few months of the season, is starting to slide .
Since the start of January, the Rockets are allowing 111.4 points a game, third-worst in the NBA. While the 107 points they allowed before January wasn't great either, it was enough to get the job done. It's not anymore.
During the road trip even Mike D'Antoni addressed the poor defensive play.
"It's just being soft mentally, not getting up into people," D'Antoni told Jonathan Feigen. "If we want to be good, we have to be better than that."
February will offer the Rockets a little more rest and more time to practice. Few teams go coast to coast without any rough patches, and January was the Rockets’ turn. February should get the team back on track.