By: Louis Prejean
The Houston Rockets got off to a rocky start to the 2015-16 NBA season and did not look like a team that reached the Western Conference Finals one season ago. James Harden was struggling to shoot the ball, Ty Lawson was not fitting in the starting line up, and Dwight Howard was seeming to be on the decline of his career. After starting 4-7, the Houston organization decided some changes were necessary. The Houston Rockets then fired head coach, Kevin McHale.
Most believe firing Kevin McHale was a mistake and a knee-jerk reaction to the poor play of the roster to start the season. Others believe McHale was a scapegoat, as head coaches are easy targets to blame when teams play poorly. No matter the case, the Rockets needed a jolt. The Rockets named then assistant coach, J.B. Bickerstaff, the interim head coach and Houston is slowly getting back on track. The Rockets are now 10-11 and 6-4 since firing Kevin McHale. Another note is Houston has won five of their last six games. James Harden and the rest of the Rockets are playing better, overall basketball, which gives Houston fans hope that this team can turn their season around.
Back on Track
The Houston Rockets are 5-1 in their last six games and after coming out the gates with little fire, the Rockets are now taking off. James Harden started the season off in an unexpected way by shooting 8% from the three point lines and averaging over five turnovers per game. A lot of people thought he was going to be looking to claim the Most Valuable Player award this season, but his flat start has made him a forgettable candidate. Harden is playing better now and the numbers are starting to round out into form. James Harden is averaging 29.3 points, 6.7 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game. He is also up to 40% shooting from the field, which is significantly better than his first 11 games. James Harden is not turning over the ball as much lately and the team has a better feel overall. Ty Lawson has been coming off the bench to lead the second unit and Patrick Beverley moved back along the side of fellow back court member, James Harden.
J.B. Bickerstaff is making the right adjustments, but their defense still needs some work. The Rockets are 28th in the NBA in opponents points per game by allowing 107 points. They are also allowing 108.3 points per 100 possessions to opposing teams. However, there are signs of hope for their defense to improve as the season progresses. Houston is third in the NBA in steals with 199 and 10 steals per game. They are also seventh in blocks with 5.8 per game.The Rockets’ offense will always be there because of the talented roster, but in order to restore their ranks amongst the top of the Western Conference the defense needs to step up.
Part of the reason the Rockets are winning games recently is because of their strength of schedule. The Rockets have not played the greatest of teams lately, with their only notable wins over the Knicks and Mavericks, but they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat. The Houston Rockets also have a good chance of winning their next three games and improving their record to 13-11. Houston plays the Brooklyn Nets, the struggling Wizards, and the Los Angeles Lakers over their next three games. The schedule is looking to ease up on the Rockets and that is great news for Houston. This allows the Rockets to gain more rhythm as a team, more confidence, and climb the ranks of the Western Conference. The Rockets are currently the 8th seed in the West and with that conference surprisingly struggle thus far, Houston can easily put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. There is a lot of basketball left in the 2015-16 NBA season and that can only benefit the Houston Rockets.
The Houston organization made a bold decision to abruptly fire Kevin McHale. That decision either may come back to haunt them, but right now this was the right move for the franchise. The Rockets were not truly improving as a team and J.B Bickerstaff, or whoever comes along as the next head coach, can bring a freshness to a team that was becoming rather predictable. After struggling to hit the ground running this season, the Houston Rockets are now cleared for take off.
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