In the Rockets' dismantling of the Cavs in Cleveland Saturday night, Chris Paul was plus-47 in 27 minutes of play. Ryan Anderson was plus-37. This was in Cleveland against LeBron James with James Harden somewhat limited by foul trouble early and still missing both Eric Gordon (sore back) and Trevor Ariza (hamstring). Plus-47 is one of the craziest numbers you'll ever seen a basketball game. When Paul was on the floor, the Rockets outscored the Cavs by 47 points. Of course, you can do that when your lead is as much as 35 early in the third quarter.
The Cavs are a mess right now, no doubt, but the Rockets are also on a roll not really seen since the first month of the season. After a somewhat shaky month of December, they now sit at 38-13, just one back in the loss column behind Golden State. They have won 11 of their last 13, which includes wins over the Blazers, Timberwolves, Warriors, Heat, Spurs and Cavs.
And since the return of James Harden, the Rockets have been stellar defensively (yes, defense), ranking fifth in the NBA, as pointed out by Houston Chronicle beat reporter Jonathan Feigen on Twitter. In fact, Harden is in the top ten in steals and has drastically improved his reputation on the defensive end of the floor to go alongside his historic offensive output.
As a team, the Rockets have only lost one game with Paul, Harden and Clint Capela all playing together. And the wins often seem effortless as their chemistry continues to improve.
There are six games left before the All-Star break. Here's a quick breakdown.
Tuesday at Brooklyn
The Nets are one of the worst teams in basketball. Even with a couple players sidelined, the Rockets should win easily. They feast on lesser teams this year and Brooklyn is perhaps the least of them all.
Wednesday at Miami
Miami has been a solid if unspectacular team this year. Seventh in the Eastern Conference is nothing to write home about, but their size matches up well with the Rockets and this is a back-to-back game with travel in between. Could be a tough matchup.
Friday against Denver
The Nuggets are coming off a win over the Warriors, but they are a streaky team that lacks consistency. There's a decent chance the Rockets return to full strength that game as well.
Sunday against Dallas
The Mavs always play the Rockets tough, but they matchup poorly with Houston and there is no reason to think this game will be different.
Tuesday, February 13 at Minnesota
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The Rockets have looked outstanding against the upstart Timberwolves this year, but this will be a tough game in Minneapolis against the currently fourth best team in the West.
Wednesdy, February 14 against Sacramento
Valentine's Day against this Western Conference cellar dweller doesn't have much to offer in the way of a challenge for Houston and we shouldn't expect that to change here. If there were any concerns, it might be the last-game-before-the-break lack of focus, but we haven't seen that from this team yet this year.
By the break, the Rockets could have added to their lead over the Spurs and Timberwolves and maybe even closed the gap on the Warriors, who have a tougher schedule over the next two weeks. After the break, the fun begins.