Rockets Rolling Into All-Star Break Despite Injuries
The Rockets have been impressive despite a rash of injuries.
The Rockets completed a pair of back-to-back wins against the Spurs and Mavericks Tuesday and Wednesday, completing a run of 7 wins in their last 10 games. Their only losses in that stretch were a pair against the Grizzlies and one complete fluke loss to Oklahoma City in which they managed the biggest negative point differential from one half to the next in league history. During this stretch, they have found themselves without four of their five starters at various times and without three of their key bench contributors as well.
That's the kind of season it has been for the Rockets. They have been an up and down team, struggling through stretches of awful offense and head-shaking losses, but turning around with brilliant performances and breathtaking wins. With the combination of injuries, youth, an over-reliance on three pointers (something they haven't done particularly well this year) and generally lackluster defense, it's quite remarkable they have 31 wins and are in sole possession of fifth place in the tough Western Conference. Move them to the east and they'd be in third, only one game back in the win column to the Heat.
The last four games have been a contrast in style and substance. The losses to Memphis underscore how this team can struggle when its shots aren't falling. The Grizzlies are a tough defensive squad and they forced the Rockets to play their game. The Rockets didn't score 90 points in either contest.
But they rebounded against the Spurs coming back from a first half deficit to win 97-90 and they followed that up with a win in Dallas 117-115. It was the first time they reached triple digits in five games -- the last coming in a win over Portland when they dropped 126 on the Trailblazers.
The good news is that the schedule finds the Rockets playing only five games in the next 12 days leading up to the All-Star break. Not only will it give them valuable practice time, but it will allow players to rest and heal. The latest casualty was James Harden who missed the last two games with a bruise on the thumb of his shooting hand. Even so, the team has managed to continue to win and there have been some particular bright spots. Chandler Parsons has been on a tear scoring 17 points while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three point line.
And with extra playing time opened up by injuries, both of the Rockets true power forwards have shown improvement. Terrence Jones is rapidly becoming one of the real young stars in the league and Donatas Montejunas, an afterthought just a few weeks ago, has provided valuable play off the bench.
Those next five games before the break pit the Rockets against teams with a combined 96-128 record with three of the five at Toyota Center. It appears Harden will be back soon as will Greg Smith and Francisco Garcia. That will go a long way towards getting the team back to full strength even if it is another month before Omer Asik is ready to go.
There is also the trade deadline looming, though GM Daryl Morey told fans recently that he doubted they would move Asik before the end of next season, which is when he becomes a free agent, mainly because of the structure of his contract. Rumors have been floating around about the Celtics Rajon Rondo as a possible player the Rockets would like to acquire, but that would probably mean dealing one of their young players like Jones or Parsons, and it seems unlikely they would do that.
Frankly, as well as they have been playing, I would be inclined to wait it out and see. If the last 10 games are any indication, the Rockets will be in good shape come March.