The addition of Dwight Howard in the off-season has propelled the Houston Rockets from a low seeded playoff team, to a true contender in the Western Conference. Dwight Howard seems to have put all the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers drama behind him and has returned to form as one of the best centers in the NBA.
The Rockets finished last season as an eighth seed in the playoffs with a record of 45-37. They have already surpassed that win total this year as they sit in fourth place in the Western Conference with a record of 49-22. The Rockets were well represented at the NBA All-Star game this year, as both James Harden and Dwight Howard were selected to represent the West in New Orleans.
After a tumultuous stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard seems to have refocused and has established newfound chemistry with James Harden and the Rockets. Howard is fourth in the NBA in rebounding at 12.3 per game, while also scoring 18.5 points per game.
What makes Howard’s numbers more impressive this season is that he is putting them up while averaging just 34.0 minutes per game, which is the lowest since his rookie season. James Harden has also benefitted from Howard’s presence, as he is having a breakout season in his second year with Houston.
Harden is currently fifth in the league in scoring averaging 24.9 points per game, while adding 5.7 assists per game. While Harden’s scoring is down from his 25.9 points per game last season, he is scoring at a much more efficient pace this year. Harden has increased his field goal percentage from 43.8 percent to 46.3 percent this year.
The Rockets are currently riding a five game win streak and sit just one game back from the Los Angeles Clippers for third place in the Western Conference. If the Rockets continue to play as well as they have during their streak, they have a good chance of rising up in the Western Conference standings.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
The Rockets did receive some bad news in final weeks of the regular season, as starting point guard Patrick Beverley suffered a torn meniscus that will likely put an end to his season. Beverley is expected to miss anywhere from three weeks to six months. If Beverley is not present for Houston during their playoff run, Jeremy Lin will have to step up for the Rockets.
Lin lost the starting point guard position to Beverley during the offseason, and has served as the back up for the majority of the season. Despite serving as a back up, Lin is averaging 12.4 points during 28.8 minutes per game. Beverley has served as the Rockets best on the ball defender, so in his place Lin will have to increase his defensive intensity, especially in the playoffs.
How Will Their Season End
The Rockets lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round last season, and they will be looking to improve on that result this year. As of today the Rockets would face the Portland Trailblazers in the first round. Expect the high-flying Rockets to improve on their playoff showing last year, but not get past the second round.
The Rockets have a high scoring offense, but at times they lack a solid defensive scheme. Without Patrick Beverley in the line up, the Rockets will not be able to keep up with the defensive tenacity of some of the other elite teams in the playoffs.
Dwight Howard and crew will be looking to soar through the postseason and prove that the Rockets are capable of competing for an NBA title in the highly competitive Western Conference.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel