Last month, the Rockets had their first perfect month since February 2008, and the team is currently riding the same wave as the Rockets from a decade ago, the team that won 22 straight.
The Rockets are just eight games away from tying their franchise record, and it will be difficult. There is a reason why only four teams have been able to win 22 in a row. But if any team can match that mark from ten years ago, it is the Rockets.
For February, I predicted the Rockets would go 9-3, and I was three games off from the team’s actual record of 12-0. Let’s see how well I can do this month.
In order to analyze the schedule, I’m going to divide it into two groups: the eight games the Rockets need to win in order to tie the streak, and the seven games the Rockets need in order to extend the streak. With 15 games over the next 27 days, the Rockets surely have a grueling schedule for March.
In Order to Tie the Streak
The Rockets have not yet beaten the Celtics, Thunder, or Raptors this season and those represent three of the Rockets’ first four opponents.
Tonight at home is the first test for the Rockets as the second-place Celtics come to town for their annual visit. When the Rockets played the Celtics back in late December, the Celtics caught the Rockets at their lowest of lows during the season, as they were on their largest losing streak of the year. And even with that burden, the Rockets still blew a 26-point lead in the game. This time, the Rockets are looking to extend their season-high streak and the team could not be playing any better. I think the Rockets will look to seek revenge and get it with the home crowd on their side.
The four-game road trip that follows will be difficult, especially with the first three taking place over four nights. The Rockets will get two days off before this stretch, but each game will be a challenge for the Rockets. Houston lost a close one to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day, but given how the Thunder are playing right now, Houston might be able to pull it out. But getting a win in OKC is never easy. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because of the way OKC is playing right now. A blowout either way would not surprise me. The Bucks’ game is a challenge because every game with Giannis Antetokounmpo is a challenge in itself. The Rockets were able to contain him in mid-December, but there is never a guarantee. The fact that this is also a SEGABABA does not help the situation either. But given the way Houston is playing right now, it’s hard to not give them the win in Milwaukee.
If the Rockets can go 3-0 to start March, they will take their 17-game winning streak north of the border to face the other one seed in the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors dealt the Rockets their only loss during a 20-1 stretch from the beginning of November until December 20 mainly because the Raptors provide serious matchup problems for the Rockets. Chris Paul did not play for the Rockets in that meeting, but the game was also played in Houston. This game will be played in Toronto, home of the best home record in the league. The Raptors are a league-best 25-5 at the Air Canada Centre this season and I think this is where the Rockets break their streak. 17 is an impressive run, and if the Rockets could get past this game, then the sky is the limit. But the Raptors are a force to be reckoned with and this may be the last non-Warriors game where the Rockets are not favored in this year.
If the Rockets can get past the Raptors, then the streak may get to 22. I don’t see the Rockets struggling against Dallas, San Antonio or Los Angeles. That would bring the streak to 21, but in an ironic twist of fate, the game needed to get to 22 brings us back to the scene where the Rockets last lost a game. The Rockets will need to defeat the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
The Pelicans are another team that has brought matchup problems to the Rockets this season, but DeMarcus Cousins won’t be playing in this game, so that bodes in favor of Houston. However, the Pelicans have actually put up better numbers without Cousins on the floor and are just a half-game out of third place in the West, so the Pelicans are not a team that should be messed with. Anthony Davis is someone the Rockets have not provided much of an answer for this season, and the Rockets will have to find one if they want to win. With the way the Rockets have been playing this season, the team has a chance to win every game on any given night, but the Pels are a threat to Houston given their style of play. I think the Rockets win a close one, but I think that this game, along with the Toronto game, are the two games Houston is most likely to drop.
Predicted Record: 7-1
In Order to Extend the Streak
The first four games in this stretch are the only games I am going to touch on. If the Rockets do not win the final three games, there is a problem.
The Wolves’ contest comes on the second night of a back-to-back with the Pelicans on the front end. It’s a difficult back-to-back from New Orleans to Minneapolis, but the Rockets have been placed in that situation before. It’s certainly more glamourous than a Golden State-Portland B2B or a Denver-Utah B2B. I think the Wolves are significantly worse without Jimmy Butler and the Wolves are not a team that can beat the Rockets without him. Given that this is a SEGABABA, the Wolves may have a shot, but I’m taking the Rockets on this one.
The Blazers games are always a toss-up. The last time the Rockets made the trip up to Portland, it took a fourth-quarter comeback to down the Blazers. Portland will likely still be in the crazy mix of teams fighting for a playoff spot, so this game will be uber-important for them. Portland’s success is dependent on their backcourt and how well they perform, and because they have a Top-5 NBA backcourt, they win a good majority of their games. However, Houston has a better backcourt and will secure the win at the MODA Center (should be Rose Garden, but whatevs).
The Pistons gave the Rockets a loss in early January, but the team looked far different. This game will mark Blake Griffin’s first match against the Rockets since Tunnelgate. The backstory will probably be more interesting than the actual game considering the Pistons have been playing very poorly as of late. Rockets win this one.
The Pelicans are probably the one team I would rather the Rockets not face in the playoffs considering how the team has performed against them this season. This is the final meeting between the Rockets and Pels this season, and the home crowd will hopefully pro-PEL (see what I did there?) the Rockets to victory. If the Rockets lose any game in this stretch, it is this one.
Predicted Record: 7-0
Overall Record: 14-1
It sounds lofty, but this is actually a worse record than what the Rockets had last month, so they are actually underperforming. If the Rockets were to lose to the Raptors and clean house outside of that game, the team would take an 11-game winning streak and a 62-14 record into the final few games in April. The Rockets could get to 60 wins before April even begins. That’s wild.