On January 24th, 2016, in a game against the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets played well, gave effort, and looked like they were having fun while doing it. In a season defined by disappointment, failure, and frustration, all three were absent for one joyous game. Whether this means the Rockets are rounding into form, or that the myriad problems which have plagued them for nearly a year are on the way out is a different matter. There are still many reasons for concern, and a very long road ahead. But in their convincing win over the Mavs, the Rockets showed some self-respect, and that’s a huge first step.

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in game coverage

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Josh Smith is home. The Houston Rockets trades for Josh Smith and set him loose on the Milwaukee Bucks on the same day, a feat as unexpected as it was joyous. Smoove helped the city of Houston celebrate by contributing defense and passing on the way to a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. It wasn’t the prettiest win, and the defense still needs work, and the Rockets still cant grab a rebound, but there were open shots to miss, and passes made to find them. For once, the Houston Rockets looked like they were glad to be there.

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in game coverage

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I could probably just post this tweet, call it a night, and this would sum up the game right here and there.

But instead, I am going to take the chance to go into more detail about what has gone wrong. The big news tonight? That a Houston team which practically prevented a Pistons team from scoring for three straight minutes thanks to one of the most ridiculous examples of hacking I have ever seen still gave up 123 points.

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in game coverage

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Dwight Howard is still pretty good.

He had 36 and 26 Monday against the Clippers, and Forrest is right to call it his most “Superman” game of the season.

But this is just a part of a really good stretch as Howard looks healthy for the first time in a while. He is finishing better at the rim, drawing more fouls, and actually hitting free throws. While he’s no longer at the stage where he can singlehandedly make a defense elite, he is still Houston’s most important defensive player. This is especially so with Pat Beverley missing 9 games (and may be missing more games with that sprained ankle) and Trevor Ariza declining on the defensive end.

And he is actually on the court. He has averaged 37.5 mpg for January and missed just one game.

It’s a blasted shame that he has such a slim chance at making the All-Star game, because Howard’s numbers overall are comparable to his first Rockets season when he did. One could even argue that with Harden’s defensive issues (which Doc Rivers ruthlessly exploited), Howard is the most important player on the Rockets.

But let’s be realistic. Houston is not winning a title this season. Dwight has a player option at the end of the season, but everyone expects him to opt out and grab the long-term money. And with seemingly every team having max room cap space, what are the chances that Houston will still retain Dwight for the long-term?

Or perhaps more scarily, do the Rockets necessarily want to?

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in columns

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The Houston Rockets won their first two tilts against the Los Angeles Clippers, but lost the third time in overtime on the second night of a road back to back. The game wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t a win, but ultimately it wasn’t bad.  There was a lot to hate about a game that the Rockets will probably kick themselves for giving away, but in the end it was probably a better sign for the team than their win the previous night.

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in game coverage

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