There are always portions of the schedule that are tougher than others and some that look downright cushy. The Rockets got through one of their toughest stretches of the season in decent shape, but now they have entered a 10-game swing where they can make some hay against some of the bottom feeders in the NBA.
That began Saturday when they pushed aside an uppity young Suns squad that had surprised some league observers earlier in the year. And while six of the next nine are on the road, they have a good shot at racking up some W's along the way.
Monday, they are at home against the absolutely dreadful Kings, a chance for a resurgent Ben McLemore to show his former team what they missed on. McLemore has been stellar of late including 27 off the bench against Phoenix, his first great performance when he wasn't in the starting lineup.
On Wednesday, they travel to Cleveland for the 5-17 Cavs before a meeting with the slightly better 11-11 Magic in Orlando on Friday. The toughest challenge of this entire run of games will probably come Saturday as they head home for the travel back-to-back against the Pistons. Granted, Detroit is only 9-14, but the Rockets haven't shown a propensity for blowing out anyone this season, so don't expect a lot of rest for the starters Friday night.
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The Spurs come to Houston the following Monday. The NBA will most certainly have ruled on the team's protest of the last game the Rockets lost in San Antonio. Could there be a replay of the final eight minutes around the same time? We'll see. Regardless, expect the Rockets to put together a better effort against the Spurs before heading to LA to face the Clippers on Thursday.
This is the lone game in this stretch that features a team with a winning record. Of course, the Clippers, currently, are a half game ahead of the Rockets, so that will be an important contest for both teams.
After the Clips, the team travels to Phoenix for another tilt with the Suns, then to Sacramento for the woeful Kings and finally a Christmas Day matchup against the shockingly bad Warriors in Oakland. The NBA must be thrilled.
As schedules go, this is about as good as it gets for the Rockets all season and somewhere in there Eric Gordon could return from this injury. If they can stay healthy, the team could be a full strength by the New Year with plenty of games under their belt to have developed some chemistry.