The Houston Rockets seem to be blasting off at the right time. After a somewhat rocky start to the season, Houston seems to be righting the ship. The twin MVPs have started to flourish in a new, more defined small-ball approach. D’Antoni has found out a way for Russell Westbrook to be the best version of himself alongside Harden and their counterparts. There was talk earlier on in the season that Houston had gotten the shorter end of the stick. Russell Westbrook’s elite level of play since New Years has so far proven the talkers wrong. On the season, he is averaging 27 pts, 7r, 7a. Since Capela was traded (Jan. 18th), he’s averaging 33.5pts (54.4% FG) 8.2r, 7.3a, and 2.0 stl per game. That’s a very significant spike.
The Rockets have won 5 straight. The revamped offense has scored 120 in each of its last 4 games. It almost seems impossible to guard this lineup without an extreme amount of discipline and length across all positions. We all know that the two stars of this team play an iso style type of game. This is where I give credit to Houston for switching to the 5 out offense because it has turned their iso plays into a positive. What better way to utilize Russ and Harden than to create an offense thats heavily initiated through iso-ball. If you try to guard Russ or Harden one on one, chances are they’ll blow right by you more times than not. This is why I say that you need defensive discipline to guard this team because the moment you double team there is a wide open shooter somewhere on the floor. With two guards averaging 7+ assists, they’ll find their target on most occasions. All of the role players seem to buy in to the system and they also seem to be getting a ton of open threes. RoCo has been a consistent threat from the perimeter for most of his career, while Mclemore seems to be coming into his own this season. Danuel House Jr. is capitalizing off of a somewhat impressive season the year before. Austin Rivers is becoming an underrated ball handler. Houston has become heaven for 3 & D basketball players.
A big argument that is made about this teams roster is that they don’t have a big who can grab boards and protect against elite big men. That statement is not true. Houston has Tyson Chandler who I imagine they’ve kept on the bench for such an occasion. He has been an excellent rebounder his entire career and has never been a slouch on defense. Recent trade acquisition, PJ Tucker, the teams primary big man is already a proven defender. Robert Covington, has been an elite defender in his tenure with the Rockets. In his 8 games with the team, he has tallied up 9 steals and 21 blocks. That defensive ability of his will be very important come postseason.
I’m not declaring this an automatic finals appearance but it seems that their chances are as good as anyone else’s. And just like everyone else, their biggest obstacle is themselves. Either way, we’ll see how it goes come postseason.