The mindset for the Houston Rockets has been very direct all season long. It started at the top with General Manager Daryl Morey, who placed the target on the Golden State Warriors and didn’t mince any words in process. Everything they do is pointed toward dethroning the defending champs and their impressive dynasty.
After trading for Chris Paul and watching the excitement build all summer to see the Rockets on the court, Houston went to Oakland and defeated the Warriors 122-121 on opening night right after they had received their rings and hung another championship banner.
The excitement would then have to be put on hold as CP3 would miss the next 14 games due to a knee injury. Paul’s return coincided with a 14-game winning streak that was subsequently followed up by a 5-game losing streak which saw Paul miss three games with an abductor injury.
Two games later James Harden suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for seven games.
The plan going into the season was to have them be on the court separately so they could have a Hall of Fame point guard to be out there at all times. They didn’t expect to be playing separately in so many games. In spite of it all they are still a very good basketball team and have managed to weather the storms they have faced. In games without Paul they are 10-7, they went 4-3 while Harden was out.
In 24 games they’re 14-10 when their two superstars haven’t played together. Now that isn’t Warriors level stuff as we’ve seen them be without Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry and barely miss a beat. However no one has the depth that Golden State has, which is why everyone is gunning for them.
Now that Harden and Paul are both healthy Houston can look to really find their groove now. They are 34-12 and currently the No. 2 seed in the West with these guys only playing 22 games together. There are a lot worse positions they could find themselves in.
They have beaten Golden State twice this season and have won in Oakland in consecutive seasons. The playoffs are a different ball game and beating Golden State four out of seven times will be a tall order for any squad, but Houston has reason to be confident.
PJ Tucker has brought in some much-needed toughness and versatility, Gerald Green has added even more long-range shooting and crazy athleticism.
With Gerald Green back in New Orleans for his 32nd birthday, an unforgettable Green moment here: https://t.co/jEUrJutgBj BTW, watched him finish his pregame warmup the other day. He's getting his dunk legs back.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 26, 2018
So it is on to New Orleans for another return game for Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson (Chris Paul too, but his time there wasn’t as recent) as they face their former team. Houston has won seven of eight, New Orleans has won six of seven. It’s the twin towers of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis versus the three-point firepower of the Rockets. If Houston shoots anywhere near the way they shot against the Dallas Mavericks (21 made three-pointers) they will leave the Smoothie King Center with another W.