Making Shots Changes Everything for the Rockets

Carmelo Anthony has missed two games with an undisclosed illness, but rumors are flying his absence will soon be permanent.
Photo by Jeff Balke
Carmelo Anthony has missed two games with an undisclosed illness, but rumors are flying his absence will soon be permanent.
For all the talk of their struggling defense early in the season, the Rockets held four straight opponents under 100 points. It helped to push the struggling team up to 18th in defensive rating after beginning the season nearly dead last. And before you say 18th isn't great, it matches where they were at this point in the season last year.

But even with improved defense, going into Sunday evening, the Rockets had dropped two of those four games, including in OKC with Russell Westbrook in street clothes, and at San Antonio, a team that has been solid to begin the season, but were certainly beatable. In those two games, the Rockets scored 80 and 89 points and shot a combined 35 percent from the field and a dreadful 24 percent from three.

This all amid rumors running rampant that Carmelo Anthony will soon be a former Rocket. Anthony missed games Saturday and Sunday with an illness and general manager Daryl Morey said before Sunday's game that those reports were inaccurate. Regardless of what happens with Anthony's spot on the team, it was clear the Rockets were in trouble 11 games into the season (a 4-7 record just a few years ago got Coach Kevin McHale fired)...until Sunday night.

On Sunday, the Rockets broke out of their offensive slump beating a very good Indiana team for the second time in a week 115-103. Shooting 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc including 40 from James Harden, the Rockets led by as many as 24 in the first half and held off the Pacers for their first home win of the season.

At some point, the second best offensive team in the NBA last season was bound to improve from their abysmal start, ranking in the bottom ten in virtually every significant offensive category. One game does not a trend make, but just seeing shots going through the net instead of clanging off the rim must provide some degree of welcome relief for the Rockets.

It couldn't have come at a better time as the team is in the midst of one of the tougher stretches of the season. After the Pacers on Sunday, they head to the hot Nuggets on Tuesday before returning home to face the Warriors on Thursday. After that, they have a stretch of eight winnable games and an opportunity to right the ship.

The huge question on everyone's mind is will that include Anthony? All indications are the experiment will come to an end this week. With or without Melo, the Rockets aren't going to win many games if they can't score. On Sunday, we were all reminded just how good this Rockets team can be...when their shots finally fell.