The Rockets roll continued on Monday night with a 107-89 in Minnesota over the Timberwolves. Dwight Howard continued his outstanding play of late with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. He was joined in double figures by the other four starters as the Rockets took down the Wolves with relative ease.
With just one game left before the All-Star break at home against the Wizards, unless the Rockets decide to take the night off, they should go into the break with a seven-game winning streak, the best in the NBA. The will exit All-Star weekend with a five-game West Coast road trip that includes games against Golden State, Phoenix, the Kings, a team that has given them a hard time this year, and the Clippers, who have owned the Rockets so far this year.
On Monday, Minnesota managed to pull close in the fourth on the strength of 31 points from All-Star forward Kevin Love. But, the Rockets held Ricky Rubio to just 2-7 shooting.
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It's been an impressive eight wins in 10 games for the Rockets, but it should be noted that a number of those wins came against inferior talent, though there were some good wins against the Spurs, Suns and Trailblazers. On the whole, the team still needs to establish consistency on both ends of the floor, but there is no doubt they are improving, particularly through the play of Howard.
One of the toughest things for a young, run-and-gun team like the Rockets had been all last year, is to transition to a team that can slow it down and play in the half court. That was a necessity for a team that landed Howard in the offseason. Howard certainly has the athleticism to keep up with the speedy Rockets, but they would be foolish not to exploit the low post skills of arguably the best center in the game.
For the first few months of the season, just figuring out how to get the ball to him in the post was a challenge, but the improvements to their entry passing along with better overall ball movement has given them more and more open shots and given Howard a chance to settle in at center.
With the Rockets nearly at full strength, they will no question be one of the teams to watch in the second half of the season. As of now, they remain in a statistical tie with the Clippers for the fourth spot in the Western Conference. Even if they are unable to move up in the standings, they will be dangerous come playoff time if they stay healthy. For now, they just want to extend their streak to seven.