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Rockets heading into All-Star Break


Officiating screw-ups, porous defense, missing open shots, the list goes on and on of what went wrong last week for the Rockets.

 

Two losses in a row to the Spurs and Thunder were followed up by a third-straight defeat at the hands of the Wizards Saturday night in Houston.

 

Now coming off a three-game losing streak, the Rockets can do nothing but look ahead to the last stretch of the first half of the season.

 

Schedule (all times CT):

2/2: MIA @ HOU    7:00 PM

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

2/4: HOU @PHX    8:00 PM

2/6: POR @ HOU   4:00 PM

2/9: HOU @ GS      9:30 PM

2/10: HOU @ POR  9:30 PM

 

 

 

MIA @ HOU-

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

Coming to Houston Tuesday night is a Heat (27-21) team that prides itself on slowing the game down and playing lock-down D. As a team, Miami attempts the 6th fewest three-pointers fewest field goals in the league at just 19.3 3PA/game and 79.1 FGA/game. Furthermore, they are the 10th best defense in the league at limiting the three-pointer, with opponent shooting just 32% from behind the arc, compared to the Rockets who allow opponents to shoot nearly 35% from behind the arc. The difference may seem insignificant but in a league built on the three-point shot, it’s a clear advantage for Miami. The Heat also have an elite paint protector in Hassan Whiteside, whose 3.9 blocks/game help the Heat’s league-leading mark of 6.5 blocks/game.

Both teams will be well-rested, with Houston not having played since Saturday, and Miami since Sunday, but this game scares me. If the Rockets are forced to rely on their incredibly inept halfcourt offense, the game could get out of hand. I see the Rockets falling at the hands of the East’s 4th-seed.

Prediction: MIA 102 – HOU 91

 

HOU @ PHX-

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

 

This is a game the Rockets SHOULD easily win. Of course, with the 2015-16 Rockets, should is a scary word. This team SHOULD  be in the top half of the conference. This team SHOULD have no trouble putting away inferior opponents. But we’ve seen how the easy wins can become embarrassing losses too many times this year. Remember Brooklyn, if you will. Or maybe Denver? Nevertheless, I’m still predicting a win here based solely on the fact that Phoenix is currently playing one of the worst starting 5’s in the league, and the Rockets are clearly better at every position. The Suns want nothing more this year than to have their young guys gain experience and no one to get injured. Unfortunately, Eric Bledsoe’s season came to an early end and Brandon Knight is recovering from a sports hernia. In their place lies a starting backcourt of Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker. Goodwin is a solid young talent who still has a long way to go to become a true NBA starter, but Booker is very intriguing. The youngest player in the league at 19, the Kentucky graduate has found his stroke early on, shooting 42% from behind the arc on 2.5 attempts per game. While I’ll obviously be focused on the Rockets side of the game, I’m very interested to get a full game’s look at Devin Booker, who could quickly turn into a very solid NBA player.

Prediction: HOU 116 – PHX 101

 

POR @ HOU-

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

 

With a home-and-home series against Portland, I found these two games to be the hardest to write. At the start of the season, most predicted the TrailBlazers to struggle early and often en route to a cellar dweller year in the West. Instead, Portland trails the Rockets by just 1.5 games in the standings through 49 games. Portland returned only Damian Lillard from last year’s starting lineup, and yet the Blazers have really prospered through it all. C.J. McCollum has become an incredible combo next to Lillard, forming one of the best backcourt duos in the league. The frontcourt mix of Vonleh, Leonard, Plumlee, and Davis has salvaged the big-men spots, and done so with very little NBA experience under their belts.

As for the two games, I think each team wins at home. Houston should hopefully be able to rest their guys down the stretch against Phoenix so the starters should be well rested headed into the first of two meetings. However, the game in Portland comes on a back-to-back following a likely beatdown in Golden State. Not only will the Rockets be exhausted, but getting up for a game against Portland right before the All-Star Break doesn’t scream like a great possibility for this year’s team.

Prediction: HOU 109 – POR 99

 

HOU @ GS-

Courtesy of SI.com

Courtesy of SI.com

 

The easiest write-up of them all. The Rockets want to play the exact same style as the Warriors. Light it up from 3, don’t use much of the shot clock, and force enough turnovers to make your defense look good. The difference between the two teams is that the Warriors have perfected the run-and-gun style. The Rockets will be playing catch-up from early on in the game against a team that is the embodiment of everything Houston wants to be. Same style, two teams on different levels.

Prediction: GS 113 – HOU 94

 

HOU @ POR

(See breakdown above)

Prediction: POR 113 – HOU 108

 

If these results hold true, the Rockets would go 2-3 heading into the break, with a 27-28 record. It’s frustrating that it’s come to this, but being below .500 in February a is very real possibility. This team has got to turn things around quickly if they want any hope at moving past the first round. Getting the 7th or 8th seed would be a death sentence. You’re just not beating the Spurs or Golden State 4 times in 7 tries. Let’s do our best as fans to hold off judgement until after this stretch. We’ll reassess over the All-Star Break whether we our March will involve watching an underwhelming Rockets team or focusing on the Stros in Spring Training.

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