The Houston Rockets finished November on a 5 game winning streak and a 13-5 record.  They had just defeated San Antonio on the road and the Asik-Howard fiasco was over.  Sure, the team needed time to gel after their first 9 games where they started 5-4, but things were looking up, correct?

Fast forward a month later, and the scent of panic has begun to linger over this team.  The Rockets went 8-8 in December, with a negative point differential.  There were some good wins against San Antonio and Golden State, but Houston blew three games against Sacramento and Utah and were also annihilated by a Westbrook-less Thunder and the Pacers.  The Rockets are currently 6th in the Western Conference by standings and 8th in point differential. These are not acceptable standards by a team that has hopes to win it all this year.

So, what are the problems?  And what can the Rockets look forward to handle them?

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in essays

Dwight career game score through 2013
The chart shows a 10-game moving average of Game Score, which is a statistic available from Basketball-Reference that aggregates all box-score statistics into a single performance metric.

It cannot be understated how significant it would for the Rockets’ future if Dwight Howard were to return to pre-back-surgery form. I wholeheartedly believe that, if it happened, the Rockets would leap from the fifth or sixth best team in the West to the title favorite.

Dwight’s recent spurt of production had our own Michael Pina and Rahat Huq wondering aloud last week whether Dwight is a top-5 player again. They came up with only three players they would rather have than Dwight over the next three years: LeBron, Durant, and Anthony Davis.

{Pause to digest.}

Is it really happening? Is Dwight really BACK? Or at least well on his way? [read more…]

in essays

2013 ends tonight, and the Rockets have to be looking forward to it. The last two weeks have seen a slew of grim losses for the Rockets during an unforgiving patch of schedule. The Rockets were put through the wringer, and in the end weren’t able to hang on to win it in the last game of the stretch, a high-scoring but low-enjoyment affair between Houston and Sacramento. The Kings have been feisty as of late, and were able to beat the Miami Heat and then nearly upend the stalwart San Antonio Spurs, but the Rockets have managed to lose to the 13th seed Kings twice this season. With that dubious distinction intact, the Rockets head into the new year with a lot of questions and only a few answers.

The biggest question might be why the Rockets go away from working plans. When Houston began feeding the ball to Dwight Howard in the post, Dwight steamrolled the Kings, especially smaller defender Quincy Acy. The Rockets scored on three possessions straight this way, then later made no effort to go back inside to Dwight. Especially during fourth quarter crunch time, the Rockets could have used some higher percentage looks, and a chance to let the other players stand still for a moment, especially when the Rockets are still clearly feeling the effects of their recent busy slate of games. They had a win in their hands, but let it slip away, and it wasn’t the first time.

[read more…]

in game coverage

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