Rockets stake claim as NBA’s best


VIDEO: Harden’s huge night rallies Rockets past Blazers in OT

HOUSTON — This is what it’s like to stand on the beach when the birds start to twitter, the winds begin to kick up and the ocean is suddenly roiling and full of foreboding.

There’s not much you can do when the tsunami rolls in and the Trail Blazers were just the latest to get washed away.

It’s past the point where the Rockets are an interesting little side trip on the road to June and thoughts of a championship.

Right now, Dwight Howard, James Harden and their dangerous buddies are in the fast lane with the top down and passing everybody else on the freeway.

Miami? Been there.

Indiana? Done that.

Portland? Please.

The Rockets spotted the Blazers a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter and still didn’t panic. Not even when it took a flick-of-the-wrist, never-a-doubt 3-point statement at the end of regulation.

That statement? We’re as good as it gets. The best team in the NBA.

“I think so,” said Chandler Parsons. “We’re playing well. We don’t think we’re done. We’re not getting arrogant or conceited or anything, but we think we can play with anybody and we’ve proved that this week. It’s fun because we know we can even get better.”

“Yes. Yes. We are,” said Harden.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. To the outside world, it probably wasn’t even thinkable this season.

So here are the Rockets with the best record in the league (23-6) since the start of 2014, with 15 wins in their last 17 games, and with the surging confidence that comes from having not only survived a grueling week that was supposed to examine their credentials, but aced the test.

It’s no longer about them just constantly trying to push the pace and beat every opponent with a crazyball attack of firing up 3-pointers.

Now they’re learning to win games like the one Sunday night, when it starts in a torpor, improves eventually to a slog and they manage to come out the other side because they just don’t stop grinding.

“I can feel guys coming together,” said coach Kevin McHale. “Their chemistry is improving. Their belief in each other is improving. They’re bonding has improved and you can feel that. And it’s nice.

“That’s what makes sports special, when you get around guys that are bonding and fighting together. It’s kind of why you’re in the business. That’s the hope for all us guys that have been doing it for many, many years, that belief that together you can get something accomplished.”

Jeremy Lin came off the bench to end his slump and with his biggest-scoring game since November with 26 points.

Harden popped in 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The unique ability of Harden to suddenly turn it on and turn around a game when the Rockets started out making just 1-for-13 on 3-pointers is part of what makes them dangerous.

But it’s also a growing sense of purpose inside the locker room that says there is no reason they have to honor a predetermined pecking order and wait their turn.

Howard is in his 10th season. He’s climbed nearly to the peak with a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009 with Orlando and knows how quickly the best-laid plans can fall apart.

This was a night when the Rockets’ big men were getting beaten on the boards by Portland through the first half. Then McHale went to a small lineup and it all turned around.

Howard knows there are nights when he can be the fearsome low-post beast that gobbles up rebounds and points in the paint. But he also feels like he can almost blend into the background, put in an honest day’s work and his team will still survive.

The Rockets are a bunch that you can practically see growing taller and stronger right before your eyes.

“We’re as good as we are right now,” said point guard Patrick Beverley. “We don’t really look for other teams. We just go out there and try to play the type of basketball we know how to play. We don’t focus on other teams. We focus on us.”

Beverley will sink his teeth in, Parsons will scratch and claw, Howard will do the heavy lifting and Harden makes magic happen.

It’s enough to make you change your notions of just which is the team to beat in the wild, wild West as the playoffs approach.

San Antonio is currently the No. 1 seed in the conference. But the Rockets are 3-0 against the Spurs.

The Thunder are the No. 2 seed. But the Rockets didn’t just lose on Sunday afternoon to the, uh, Lakers Lite.

Is it possible the best team in the NBA is gathering like a hurricane off the Gulf Coast of Texas?

The week ahead might hold the answer as a three-game road trip to OKC, Chicago and Miami looms.

“We just want to hold up that trophy come June,” Howard said. “We’ve got to stay humble. That’s the message. We cannot get cocky. We cannot lose our focus. That’s when you fail. So you got to stay humble.

“We’re getting better. We’re not satisfied. We still have a ways to go. But I like the way we’re playing. No fear. We make mistakes. We get in the huddle. We come out and try to get the job done. We’re together. That’s the sign of a good team.”

And maybe, just maybe, much more.


VIDEO: James Harden discusses his monster game against the Blazers

73 Comments

  1. Houston is a damn good team this year. Both the Heat and the Pacers lost to them this year. Houston is a better team than the Pacers most definitely. i’m not sure if they’re better than the Heat. If you’re facing the Rockets you better not underestimate them.

  2. John Toal says:

    I notice you didn’t mention OKC. Maybe it was the 19 point second half? Or the other two previous beatings? Do tell.

  3. asdf says:

    This is how I know the rockets cant win this year, their defense arent good enough, they arent very good in halfcourt, howard shoots 50% from the freethrow line.

    In the playoffs opponents will slow them down, and they have to play halfcourt, and basically their halfcourt set is howard harden pick&roll, Harden Iso, or a howard postup. cant win with that, they are a good team, but they are not a championship team, yet atleast.

  4. captainCap says:

    now i can tell it, i think the bucks won’t win the title

  5. Travis M says:

    Wow. No respect for the heat. When will people realize that the regular season doesn’t matter to this team. They’re still the best team in the league till proven otherwise. And that can’t be proven until the playoffs. Not hating. Rockets are an extremely scary team. But chill.

  6. Singaporean says:

    I do not see a hot favourite team to win this season… that is y i love this game!
    Hope Spurs can clinch one last Hurray!

  7. josey says:

    Anything’s possible! ?!?! The west is tough and the clippers are a team I LIKE!

  8. okc2014 says:

    I’m a secondary Rockets fan (OKC & Hawks first). I disagree with some of the comments. I really don’t believe Dwight Howard will do a “prima donna”. He has great chemistry w/ his teammates, is totally happy, and has a great coach. Unlike his other life with the Fakers. I have always maintained that the Rockets are ready to launch, just not this playoff season. Give them 2 years tops to win a championship. Hopefully Dwight will stick around. LOL.

  9. justjess says:

    All I can is FLOPS…absolutely ridiculous!

  10. John Chase says:

    This is easily one of the stupidest articles that’s appeared on here. Harden should be fined by the league for his various flops during the Blazers game. Houston is an illusion, they aren’t half the team that the Pacers or Oklahoma City are. Dwight gets away with shoving people all the time in the low post, Harden is the biggest flop machine this side of Manu Ginobili. If the Rockets end up winning it all this season, they should give championship rings to the refs that got them there.

  11. eX says:

    I am a rocket fan but let’s be serious , can we win against the Clip. ,Thunder or even the Griz.!, and as long as the Spurs have Pop, they are so tough.

  12. Ryan says:

    Honestly where was these Clipper fans when they had Elton Brand as the face of their franchise? Glory fans make me sick

  13. Ryan says:

    I love it, I absolutely love how this team battles and grinds it out day in and day out in the faces of all the doubters and haters out there. This team is for real and ya’ll better start to recognize us down here in the South. What is even more interesting about this team is that they are a young team that has only been together for a little over half a season. Also my man ASIK needs to jump on board and accept his role and let’s do the D**N thang by representing H-Town in the NBA FINALS BABY!
    Dwight Howard is playing great and Sky is the limit with great role players around him. Evidently Dwight is happy so let’s keep it that way! Peace and Whut UP Harden StAy Up ” LET’S GO RED NATION”

  14. Lebron iZ DeezD says:

    FEARin Da BEARD :|

  15. Samuel says:

    Honestly? Best team? Because they flop their way to victory and the refs buy it? Blazers had the win…Rockets were given 6+ seconds to inbound the ball for the final possession.

    • Hugo Jacks says:

      The Blazers were up by 12 in the 4th quarter and couldn’t hold it. Don’t blame the refs – Houston is simply just a better team than Portland.

  16. Hugo Jacks says:

    As a Rockets fan – I’ll GLADLY take the Spurs in a 7 game series despite their history/record.

  17. smh says:

    i’ll say this, in the wild wild west, there is no clear cut favorites. in the east, we know its miami vs indiana to represent the eastern conference. (most likely miami at this point) in the west, okc,spurs,clippers,houston, heck if golden state gets hot from shooting the three, they can go really far. and dont count out the portland trail blazers. hell even the 8th seed can upset in the west. its a very dangerous conference to be in at this time. bottom line, in the west, there is no clear front runner to represent the west.

  18. Ryan says:

    I love watching my Rockets now. They are brilliant, i love how grounded Kevin McHale is. Those saying they are arrogant etc. What are they supposed to say we arent the best team in the league? Ask CP3 he will say they are the best same with Lebron Durant etc. I hope we get Golden State or Phoenix in the first round. We would beat Memphis i think we matchup well with Howard Gasol T Jones ZBo. Just think our backcourt is a lot better. I hope they take it easy now though before the playoffs dont want to burn out. Keep the #3 seed no need to move up or go down.

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  20. RALPH says:

    Lets be real here everyone, (I am a die hard Rockets fan) every team goes through this stretch where they are the best/worst in the leaugue. Miami did it, Indiana did it, OKC – SA – LAC – Portland has done it as well. It just so happens, Houston/SA is coming at the right time and “I HOPE” it’ll continue in the playoffs. I would really love to see Houston/SA West Conf Championship Series.

  21. tmayne says:

    the clippers really aren’t that good, they HAVE to do well this year since the lakers are pretty much terrible now. the nba wants to keep hollywood happy and give them the best team. honestly they should be way better with the talent they have, but they don’t gel like a real championship team should.

  22. Migs says:

    only the best win championships, Rockets are not the best in the NBA, lets see how long before Howard turns pre madona again and turns on his team mates like always.

    • gg says:

      it’s prima donna. Howard has no plans on turning into “madona” or even Madonna. You can’t fully blame Howard for what happened in Orlando or LA. In Orlando he tried to keep things in house but the coach went public with it. In LA, he was playing while still recovering from surgery and LA fans are almost as bad as NY fans.

  23. celentano says:

    We have to see with Clippers shining trough the play-offs,still not convince me to win the western’s conf. finals! As for San Antonio they have the best record now but see them at that time comming short. Especialy in the finals,this is the last season for giving a try to win ther finals if they made it at all!
    As for Okc is a big question too, Russel is not that reliable to finnish games to win.Thus Houston & Grizzlys are nocking at theyr doors as well!

  24. Someone says:

    wait till OKC crushes them again tomorrow

    • Hugo Jacks says:

      just like they crushed the Lakers yesterday huh?

      • Da Grandfather Clock says:

        yoo the thunder big three held their own. they lost because their role players are unable to step up. especially now that they are missing the two best defenders from their starting line up. the lakers just got lucky some scrub caught on fire, it happens. thats why there are 7 games in a series, to eliminate that randomness

  25. Jose Rodriguez says:

    Im a rockets fan. I just love to see articles like this. Also like to see all the haters hate! Everyone has an excuse when their teams are losing. Injuries new roster and all. And we are still in it! At the end of the season every team plays the same 82 games and out west its even harder! Go Rockets! I bet everyone expected them to fall off because of Dwight. When honestly he is wat keeps them together! Anyone feel free to hate!

  26. charles says:

    Lets remember what dh said. “Stay humble”. I see a lot of arrogant comments. The rockets are my second favorite team behind okc so im not bias. The blazers were saying the same thing earlier this season when they were on a roll and beating top teams.

  27. HOUSTONALOHIC713 says:

    WASUP WIT DA ROCKET HATERS GET OFF CLIPPERS BANDWAGON IF UR NOT FROM LA OMG

    haterS!!!!

  28. Arnulf says:

    Response to some previous comments:

    - Spurs and OKC have a better record: Well the question here is who is the best now, not going back to the beginning of the season (when obviously those teams were indeed better).

    - But the Clippers beat them 3 times: That’s true, but it doesn’t mean they have a better shot at the title. Much like you can’t conclude the Rockets have better chances than the Spurs because they beat them 3 times.

    - OKC \ Spurs had injuries: So did many teams, like the Clippers and the Blazers. And so did the Rockets. They were missing Asik for most of the season, Harden for a few games, Lin for a few weeks, Beverly for a month and a half.

    - Last thing: I’m not saying the rockets are favorites to win the title yet, but I do think they are the best team since the all star break. Did any other team had a winning streak this season against the Heat, the Pacers and the Blazers (or similar teams) one after another?

    • JarBox says:

      I agree and I’ve been a rockets fan since 2006 and I haven’t seen this for a long time since they are ready for the playoffs so next is oaklahoma on the road I wish u good luck

  29. tan thuan kee 37901 says:

    The spurs will win it all this season, mark my words. Indiana has seriously lost momentum. OKC lacks chemistry with Westbrook back. The heat were lucky against the pacers and spurs last season. If paul George had not wasted his protein shake on the Miami stripper during last year’s playoffs, what’s to say he could have guarded lebron a bit better in game 1 east conf finals, the pacers could have beaten the heat. Stay cute always moi sze lyne u r special & there will never be another person in this world like u. I say that with a heavy heart as I know we will probably never meet ever again after this week. It will probably take me a long time to get over u

  30. E MAN says:

    hOUSTON IS WAITING D HOWARD TO MELT DOWN AND START CRYING. IT WILL HAPPEN JUST WATCH WHEN OKC,SPURS OR THE CLIPPERS BEAT THEM…. hOUSTON FANS ARE FCKN STUPID!!

    • E MAN says:

      OKC #1 SPURS #2 THE REST GOTTA WAIT FOR NEXT SEASON. SPURS AND OKC HAVE ALOT TO PROVE TO BEAT THE HEAT!!! HOPEFULLY MY SPURS COME THRU!

      • RALPH says:

        You wanna talk about a melt down..???? What happened to you Spurs last year..???? THANK YOU..!!!!!

    • Walsean1 says:

      Are you a OKC, Spurs, or Heat fan? If so, keep hatin, hater! Every win against any of these teams makes it much more sweeter. James Harden is 24 years old, 24 and he is not even into the prime of his carrer yet. Dont be surprised if your team who ever it is you are hiding behind gets beat. if you are going to talk smack then rep you team. Real talk, put yo name on it.

      • Walsean1 says:

        Oh you are a T-shirt Spurs fan. Um by the way just in case you have been sleeping under a rock or something, the Rockets are 3-0 against you. Your team does not match up well against us. I will give them credit for thier dynasty, but it is coming to a end, and Rockets got next. We got something for Tony Parker, Old Manu Ganibili and Time Duncan. You have no one to stop The Beard, and Dwight is going to dominate old Tim Duncan.

  31. mike bone says:

    Getting a bit ahead of themselves – the young pups best listen to their elder statesman- DH. Who woulda thunk it?
    Playing good ball and earned some serious credit with last week – but OKC is missing Sef and Perkins- and the Clips match up well.
    That said – i watched the improvement of this team -including ‘ better’ losses to the Clips – Don’t know if they could beat LA n seven, but they can beat those guys. Sometimes just one game to turn things around.
    Seriously Spurs – just too old in a long series – they still need Duncan. That Playoff schedule is a killer. And the LAC are good But it will be OKC in the end – and Miami. Wild card – Matchups – the west is so deep and an upset to the top four in round one could really throw it open. Particularly the exit of either OKC or LAC
    Rankings for the possible Western Conf Champ- – with all teams heathy – OKC , LAC, Rockets, SA.
    We get to see the Clips agani in Houston- need to win that one for sure.

    • RG says:

      Spurs just too old in a long series? I don’t think so. they still have young guys like Leonard, Green, Belinelli, and Mills, who all have been playing pretty well. they still also have Splitter (who’s been playing a bit better recently) and while he’s not young anymore, Diaw is certainly playing a lot better this season than he was last season. yes, they need Duncan, but they don’t need to heavily rely on just him, and even with the minutes he’s gotten, he’s still one of the best big men in the league. of course, I can’t forget to mention Ginobili (who, despite age and the injuries, can still make beautiful plays and make his teammates look better) and Parker, who’s beginning to look like himself last season, when he was a MVP candidate. not to mention, they still have Pop.

      that said, the Spurs should still be taken seriously, and if fully healthy, them and OKC are the two best teams in the West. I believe it will be one of them winning the West.

  32. mholdzkom says:

    This is a terrible, terrible article.

  33. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    gonna say this one more time. you don’t want to meet Memphis in the playoffs.

    • Ehman316 says:

      First off, I’m not a Memphis fan, and a huge Rockets fan. I agree though with your statement. Memphis has a front line that destroys most in the West. They practically can own everybody in the playoffs except the Spurs. It’s just a bad matchup for them. Don’t be surprised of an upset in this year’s playoffs.

  34. rank says:

    The Rockets have beaten spurs, miami and blazers yet they dont have the best record. Okc and spurs have had players with injuries for more than a month yet they still lead the western conf. So.. yeah, rockets is still behind those two teams.

    • RocketMick says:

      rank you may not know but houston just put this team together .OKC and the Spurs were built before them so they should hve better records,

  35. Inside Hoops says:

    No doubt the Rockets are playing great ball and giving many a run for their money, however where is the D? I would think going into the playoffs you better be one of the best defensive teams to continue winning a 4 out of 7 game series. Also, watch out for the Spurs who are finally fully healthy, recently shut down Lebron and blew out the Heat and have shown marked improvement while also continuing to be one of the top defensive teams. The Spurs are rounding the corner, and so Fran don’t let the regular season blind you.

    • Reppin The H says:

      They are one of the top defensive teams though! They’re number 9 so far through the whole season, but if you look at after Jan 1 they’re even better. This misconception that the rockets don’t play defense is ridiculous.

    • Graftonator says:

      Houston are 5th in opponent fg% behind Pacers, Bulls, Warriors and Thunder! This is not the be all and end all of proving good D but, at the very least, points towards their D not being as bad as everyone makes out.

  36. Darrinlane says:

    I’m a Rockets fan. This author use to be a writer for the Houston Chronicle. He has bias. I agree we are the best but we all think our teams are lol. You guys take care.

  37. Carl Bennett says:

    Careful..the Spurs are getting healthy again..

  38. hmm says:

    Not one mention of the Clippers, who are on a longer winning streak, that includes beating these very same Rockets. Who they are already 3-0 on the season.

  39. H8eRz says:

    Why get upset, Rockets did beat the Spurs/Heat/Pacers/BlazRs

  40. Roger Kao says:

    Maybe Rockets is not number one, yet. You can give me 10 more reasons to say Clippers or Spurs are better than Rockets and maybe they really are. But, it is a lot of fun to watch the game. It is more interesting to see how this team grows. You smile when Dwight plays with a smiling face. You nod your head when James nodded his. You jump, when Patrick jumping everywhere. You feel the chemistry, and the joy of playing basketball.

  41. Clips says:

    Yeah strange you didn’t mention the Clippers.

    Also off topic – the highlight guy from today is good, that really annoying guy from the other day has got to go. He tries so hard it’s cringe-worthy. I’m pretty mellow, but seriously, I close the vids as soon as I know it’s him doing them.

  42. Brett says:

    Ahem…..The Clippers have thoroughly beaten the Rockets three out of three times this year and are presently on a seven game winning streak…..

  43. Brad says:

    Wow! Mentioning OKC (no. 2) and Spurs (No. 1) without mentioning the Clippers (No. 4) who holds 3-0 win against them this season.

  44. moe says:

    We’ll see in the playoffs on how Houston perform. Also their next two games against OKC and Miami.

    • liftoff says:

      They just beat miami less than a week ago dummy and okc just lost to the lakers…dont hate-congratulate

      • Heat says:

        Ok congratulation to the Rockets beating the Heat for the first time in a few years while the Heat where coming from from a back-back! The Spurs finally beat the Heat in the regular season after a few seasons. Doesnt mean their better teams then them. Back-Back Champs!

  45. rank says:

    The spurs have better record. The rockets may be playing well as of the moment but overall, spurs is still better.

    • Angel Ordonez says:

      Uhm, so we have beaten the pacer , blazers , and heat in a week ? Oh let me remind you we beat the spurs twice this year also

      • Nope says:

        OKC can rape Rockets. You have beaten a struggling Pacers, they got blowed out by Charlotte so don’t get too happy that Rockets beat such a good team. They barely won against Heats and they barely won against Blazers, they beat Blazers in overtime by flopping. Rockets will go far in the playoffs if they hold their No. 3 spot, if they fall off then they will only win the first-round playoffs.

        Right now, nobody wants to face against Phoenix Suns because they are the most deadliest team in the NBA for most playoff contenders. But in this playoff, I’m going with LAC or OKC or SAS to go far, LAC has nice starters and veteran and experienced back-ups. OKC has KD and after they get their chemistry going with Westbrook, they’ll be top notch again. San Antonio has top record and they are a finalist contenders for the past 5 years or so.

    • allaroundballer says:

      Last season spurs didn’t face enough challenge in western conf. Let see what happens next june. And the rocket’s biggest thing is next season, they’ll be more mature n consistence. 2014 final: pacers/heat vs okc/spurs/clippers. Those are guarantee

      • john says:

        ha! Spurs are better?? I don’t think so, that’s why the rockets have killed San Antonio three times this season. Rockets are hot right now so all the teams better watch out.

      • bishme rodriguez says:

        stop it five #teamrocket all day im going to laugh so far if he we go 3-0 again this week against the top teams and as for the clippers we’ve play them 3 times and yes they have won 3 times but that def was early in the season where the chemistry still wasnt right and we were still tryin to discover out identity now we understand our role and who we are as a team…

      • RG says:

        @john
        the Rockets haven’t necessarily killed the Spurs in those three games. sure, the Rockets built big leads in the first two games, but the Spurs were still in all three of those games before losing. also, those 3 games were in November, December, and January. when it comes to the playoffs, I wouldn’t dare sleep on the Spurs.

      • jasin says:

        Spurs didn’t face enough challenge last year lmao!! What playoffs you watch ??

      • jasin says:

        Spurs didn’t face enough challenge last year lmao!! …..what playoffs you watch??

      • RocketMick says:

        Give it a rest boys wait till the playoffs itwill be decided..