Houston, We Do Not Have A Problem: Rockets Are Rolling

James Harden Of The Houston Rockets

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, December 18, 2016 11:18 PM GMT

The hottest team in the NBA right now is the Houston Rockets, who have won a league-best 10 straight games entering this week. No team lives or dies more by the 3-pointer than the Rockets. 

Rockets Live Beyond The Arc

Some NBA old-timers don't like how the league has become so dependent on the 3-point shot. Last month, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said this about the Golden State Warriors, who are definitely a jump-shooting team and rely heavily on the 3-pointer for their success: “Maybe I’m old school, but I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people. I’m biased against girl basketball.”

That's a little sexist, but you can't argue with how the Warriors do things as they won the NBA title two seasons ago with their "girly" style and should have won it last year but blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals to Cleveland. They are the betting favorites to win the championship this summer. Barkley, then, must really hate one of his former teams, the Houston Rockets. Under new coach Mike D'Antoni, the Rockets are almost a 3-point shooting sideshow. But it's working as they enter this week on an NBA-high 10-game winning streak and are a spectacular 19-9 ATS on NBA picks this season. Those are the most ATS wins in the league.

In Friday's 122-100 win over New Orleans, the Rockets set NBA records for 3-pointers attempted (61) and made (24). Just for a point of comparison, Michael Jordan had six seasons where he didn't even attempt that many 3-pointers. Yep, times have changed. On the season, Houston has  made an NBA-best 417 3-points and is on pace to break the league mark of 1,077 set by last year's Warriors. Houston has four players ranking in the Top 10 in 3-pointers made in Eric Gordon (second with 104), James Harden (fourth with 85), Trevor Ariza (seventh with 78) and Ryan Anderson (10th with 74).

Harden is certainly the NBA MVP conversation and is the second-favorite on NBA odds at +300 to win it at SBR Forum's best sportsbooks behind fellow triple-double monster Russell Westbrook (+150) of Oklahoma City. Harden has six triple-doubles on the year and on Friday set the franchise record with his 15th career. In his next game, Harden will pass Yao Ming for sixth on the career Houston scoring list. Harden is fifth in the league in scoring (27.7 ppg) and first in assists (11.8 apg).

Gordon is a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year (he starts occasionally) as he's averaging 17.5 points per game and has hit at least three 3-pointers in each of the past 13 games, which is tied for the third-longest streak in NBA history. The Warriors' Steph Curry has the top three streaks at 17, 16 & 13. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was panned by many around the league for hiring the retread D'Antoni this past offseason, but D'Antoni has the Rockets second in the NBA in scoring at 113.1 ppg. Four of D'Antoni's last six teams (one with Lakers and three with Knicks) didn't even make the playoffs -- hence the skepticism surrounding his hiring.

 

Challenging Week Ahead

I'm not sure Houston's winning streak survives this week, however. The Rockets host San Antonio on Tuesday. The Spurs are the NBA's No. 4 defensive team in allowing just 97.7 points per game and have won three of their past four trips to Houston -- including 106-100 on Nov. 12. Harden is averaging 24.5 points, 14.0 assists, 11.5 rebounds and 7.5 turnovers in two games vs. the Spurs this year.

Then it's the second of a back-to-back Wednesday in Phoenix, although the Rockets are 4-0 in NBA betting in the second of back-to-backs this year after rallying from 17 points down to beat Minnesota in overtime on Saturday to extend that winning streak to double digits. The Rockets made 17 of 51 3-pointers, taking the second-most 3-pointers – fewer only than the 61 they put up the night before vs. the Pelicans – in league history. It will be the first meeting of the season between Houston and Phoenix.

On Friday, the Rockets visit Memphis, which has been vastly overachieving this season and just got back star point guard Mike Conley from injury. Those two teams also have yet to play in 2016-17. Monitor the status of Rockets starting center Clint Capela this week as he left the Timberwolves game with a bruised leg, although Capela says he's OK.

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