We’re a few days now away from the break, and the Rockets sit tied with the Toronto Raptors at second in offensive rating at 111.5 points per 100 possessions, behind the league-leading Warriors. They’ve climbed up to eleventh in defensive rating, just a mere tenth of a percentage point behind the ninth ranked New Orleans Pelicans and tenth ranked Detroit Pistons. (Pelicans/Pistons = 105.1; Rockets = 105.2). The seventh ranked Oklahoma City Thunder give up 104.8 points per possession, and the eighth ranked Charlotte Hornets give up 104.9. Thus, Houston is basically knocking on the door of cracking the top 10 in defense, while having the second best offense in the league. Add in that they are third in net rating at 6.2, behind the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, and there really shouldn’t remain any doubt regarding whether this team is a contender.
The defensive rating in particular is a surprising revelation. After their struggles in January, I would have guessed that the team would have hovered back towards the middle of the pack. Instead, they’re basically right at the all-important “top 10 in both offense and defense.” We said in the preseason that if the Rockets could have one of the league’s best offenses, and a defense around 15-20, they’d have a chance to win 50 games. With a defense just inches out of the top 7, one can see why 60 wins was very realistically in play.