What a season it’s been to be a Houston Rockets fan. The team is cruising along at 60-plus win pace, which would be good enough for the best in franchise history. James Harden is putting in MVP performances just about every single night and should be the clear front runner for the award at this point. And the team is on their second double-digit win streak of the season, following up the 14-game streak earlier in the year with the current 15-game streak they are riding.
Bur perhaps the coolest thing is that should Houston get through tonight’s contest with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the following two games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, the Rockets have a very real chance to meet or exceed their famous 22-game win streak from back in 2008. But a closer look at both streaks shows that no matter how far the current streak goes, it’s already just as dominant, if not more so, as the one the 2008 team put together.
The 2008 streak began with a 111-107 win over the Golden State Warriors and ran all the way until a March 18 defeat at the hand of the Boston Celtics. During that extended period of winning play, however, just 9 of the 22 teams they downed finished the year with a winning record. They did manage to defeat a few very good teams, including the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers and twice defeated the 56-win, Chris Paul-led New Orleans Hornets.
Those three victories in particular helped pump up the win percentage of their opponents during the streak, and the teams they beat finished the year with a cumulative .476 winning percentage. They defeated them by an average margin of 12.3 points per game.
What was special about that squad was how unexpected the win streak was. Center Yao Ming went down with a broken foot 12 games into the streak and wouldn’t return again that season (and, in fact, would never really be the same), so the team was led by Tracy McGrady and a cadre of role players, including Rafer Alston, Shane Battier, an ancient Dikembe Mutombo, Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, and rookie Kyle Lowry.
This year’s squad has beaten better opposition. So far, out of their 15 victories, which began on January 28 with a win over the Phoenix Suns, 10 of them have come against teams with winning records, already one more than the 2008 team achieved over 34 percent more games.
Their opponents’ winning percentage is also higher, as the teams they have defeated own a combined .483 percentage to this current point in the season. And they’ve also managed to defeat their opponents by a larger average score, with a 12.6-point margin of victory through the 15 games.
This year’s team is a little less surprising considering they’re not playing without one of their superstars for almost half of their winning streak, and the overall makeup of the current roster is stronger from top to bottom, but it’s still quite impressive that two-thirds of their opponents during the 15 games have winning records, and they’re still defeating them by a double-digit point average.
But it’s not just what the team is currently doing that is eye-opening, it’s also about the potential of where this thing could end up. Should the Rockets find a way to match the 2008 streak — and that’s no easy task with their upcoming schedule — that will take them up to March 17 (it’s pretty cool how the streaks are running on a similar date timeline). Six out of their next seven games are against teams with winning records, which would mean should the Rockets manage to match 2008’s 22-game streak, 16 of the 22 teams overall will be against winners.
Their opponent’s win percentage is also certain to take a leap, as the next seven squads they face have won a combined .546 percent of the their games on the year.
This year’s streak also edges another famous Rockets team as well, and that’s the 15-gamer the ‘93-’94 team opened up the season with. That team faced 9 out of 15 teams with winning records, and their opponent’s win percentage was an almost identical .485 percent. But their average margin of victory failed to hit double digits, coming in at 9.2 points per game, after five of their last six wins in the streak were single-digit victories.
So enjoy what you’re currently watching, Rockets fans. Not only does this season hold the best Houston team in over 20 years, the first likely MVP since Hakeem Olajuwon, and a legitimate shot at the NBA title, they also have a real chance to put together the single most impressive win streak in franchise history.
Of course, that becomes for naught should they lose tonight to the Thunder, or in any of the next seven games. But even if that should happen, you’re still living in the midst of Rockets record books. Regardless of how this year’s streak finishes up, we’ll already be remembering it for years to come as either the first or second-best winning streak in Houston Rockets history.