In light of the fact that the Rockets just racked up a record 26 three-pointers against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday to set a new NBA record, we have to ask… Are the Houston Rockets back? With stars like James Harden and Chris Paul on the roster, it’s hard to ever discount them completely, but after winning five games in a row and breaking a shooting record this week, they’re looking especially strong. Like you might want to get tickets to see the Rockets play strong. (And hey, they’re pretty cheap!) Here’s our overview of the team so far this season.
The Rockets Roster
After underperforming earlier this season, the Rockets finally have a better than .500 record and a top-five offensive rating. They also have the current NBA MVP in their star player James Harden. The 6’5” guard is shooting an average of 31.6 points per game, leading the league in PPG for the second year in a row. He hits threes, sure, but he also hits the free throw line a lot and makes about 85% of those baskets. Experts are torn on whether he deserves these calls from refs (and unrelated, whether or not he let his team down during the playoffs last year), but either way, Harden is one of the key players for the Rockets. He’s great at handling the ball, shooting the three, and drawing the foul. At his best, Harden is nearly unguardable. His teammate Chris Paul said he’s the best offensive player he’s ever seen. While that’s debatable, it is undeniable that when Harden and Paul play together, they perform at their best.
Chris Paul is a powerhouse in his own right, even with his recent plague of injuries, including an unfortunate hamstring problem that began just in time for the playoffs last year. Paul does a great job of protecting the ball, rarely turning it over. Recently, however, his shooting has been a little rough around the edges – at around 30% or less – but regardless of that, the Rockets keep winning. Maybe it’s because Paul is still playing over 35 minutes per game and averaging 9.5 assists and three steals. So even if this is the worst season of his career so far, as the stats say it is, the 33-year-old still plays an important role on the court with his (career-low) 15.8 points per game.
After the big names and veterans, you’ve still got players like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker on your starting roster. Capela has been scoring double-doubles throughout the season, Gordon is new to the lineup but they’re pleased with his performance, and Tucker is big on defense while also scoring in the double digits.
After making it so far in the playoffs last year – forcing a Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals – people expected big things out of the Rockets this season. And it’s still possible that they’ll be able to deliver. They’re aggressive about shooting, especially when it comes to threes. In fact, sometimes it feels like that’s all they shoot…
That Three-Point Shooting
Okay, let’s talk about Wednesday.
Houston broke the NBA record for three-point baskets made in a single game by making 26 of the 55 threes they shot. The previous record was set by the Cleveland Cavaliers with 25 three-pointers. So that’s just silly. While the Wizards say they gave them a lot of open looks (and a lot of sports gurus called them lazy), eight different Rockets players had a hand in the three-point barrage. And things might be looking up for Christ Paul, who seemed to break out of his slump when he hit five of nine three-pointers. Harden hit six of his own. And the whole team managed to make 47% of all those 55 threes they shot. Oh, and that’s with Paul and Harden exiting the game and heading to the bench with 4:15 to go.
“Man, it was fun,” Paul said. “It’s one of those things you don’t get to do very often. To do it with the team, unless it gets broken tomorrow, it’s something that we’ll remember.” Oh, don’t worry, we’ll remember too.
But can the Rockets keep this up? Is all that shooting sustainable? Has Chris Paul come back to life? The answer is a big fat “maybe.” Guess we’ll see during their games against the Heat and the Spurs this week!