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Rockets Roundup: 01/05/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days.  

Houston Chronicle. Five things we learned in the Rockets’ bounce-back win over the Heat.

From the opening tip, the Rockets were determined to play with all the energy they saved the night before. For that matter, they were determined. If the Rockets really did learn a lesson Friday that they applied to Saturday, it might have been worth taking their worst loss of the season. That would only be true if it lasts more than 24 hours, but there was no question that they responded to the embarrassing loss in their next chance, playing with the energy and urgency that was lacking and largely has been lacking in recent weeks. Even when they trailed early, the Rockets defense was aggressive at forcing turnovers, demonstrating the way they have to play even when they are not coming off the worst loss of the season.

Forbes. 2015 30 under 30: Sports.

As a chubby teenager with asthma, James Harden knew his NBA dream was a “long shot.” But the future superstar forced himself to get up early before school to jack up shots in the gym and lift weights. That work eventually earned Harden a scholarship to Arizona State, where he played for two years before being drafted third overall in 2009 by the Oklahoma City Thunder. More than five years later, Harden is living out his fantasy, now as the starting shooting guard for the Houston Rockets with an Olympic gold medal to his name.

SBNation. The Josh Smith effect hasn’t been real.

When the Pistons waived Josh Smith on Dec. 22, the idea that they’d suddenly start winning and turn into a solid team was a top notch Twitter joke. What if that was holding them back? Wouldn’t that be funny!? Except now it’s sort of happened. Since then, the Pistons have won four straight games and the Houston Rockets, who signed Smith on Dec. 24, have lost three of their last five…So far, it’s working for the Pistons, all while Houston has dropped a spot in the Western Conference playoff standings. But how real is the Josh Smith effect? As we’ll demonstrate, it doesn’t come close to explaining both team’s recent change of fortune in a short period of time.

CBS Local. Motiejunas excels in return to starting lineup.

Donatas Motiejunas had a successful return to the Rockets’ starting lineup on Saturday. Motiejunas did his part to jump start the Rockets in their 115-79 win over the Heat. The forward had nine of his 12 points in the opening quarter, appearing unstoppable in the low post against the Heat’s Danny Granger and forcing Miami to switch Chris Bosh to defend him down low.

Houston Chronicle. Kostas Papanikolaou earns back playing time.

In Saturday night’s win over the Heat, Rockets forward Kostas Papanikolaou looked to be regular in the rotation again after not having a lot of of minutes in a handful of prior games. “We have new guys so we have been trying lots of things,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “But I really wanted to get (Papanikolaou) back in there more. He creates a lot of things on the floor, he plays hard, he plays good defense. I wanted to try him in different lineups.”

NBA.com. Week 10 Power Rankings: In the new year, Hawks fly to the top of the list.

10. Houston (23-10)
Pace: 97.6 (8), OffRtg: 102.1 (19), DefRtg: 98.0 (2), NetRtg: +4.1 (9)
Early in the season, James Harden was struggling with his shot and getting by on free throws and clutch threes. He’s shot 54 percent over the last seven games, but as a whole, the Rockets still haven’t put two good offensive games together, in part because they have little playmaking on their bench. The offense has fallen apart with Harden off the floor.

ESPN.com. Power Rankings Week 10: Hawks take top spot.

9. The Rockets, for the record, insist they did not promise a starting spot to Josh Smith as various rival contenders vying for Smith believed. But Kevin McHale has since moved him to the bench after four starts. Houston surely had to gamble on J-Smoove at a bargain price, but the addition has been less than seamless.

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