When the schedule was released it was pretty apparent the Rockets were dealt a big break. All that remained was the Texans going all in and taking the whole pot. Four teams that were not playoff teams last season and were not expected to make any serious improvement this season would elcome the Rockets to the 2014-15 season.
Three games in, the Rockets have hardly been tested on their way to a 3-o start. Their average margin of victory over the Lakers (0-4), Jazz (1-2) and Celtics (1-1) is 14 points and James Harden has been able to sit out the entire fourth quarter of two of their lopsided wins because, well, the games were so lopsided.
The soft patch of the schedule continues for one more game with Monday’s game against Philadelphia (0-3), before they finish their second back-to-back of the season against the Heat on Tuesday night.
As easy as 1-2-3
The Rockets 3-point shooting has been excellent thus far and while the competition, or lack thereof, should be noted, the Rockets must be given some credit for taking and making shots. As a team, the Rockets are shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers, having made 38-of-90 shots, including at least 12 makes in each game. They rank second in the league in 3-point accuracy, trailing only the Hawks (48 percent). Houston finished 15th last season at 36 percent.
Houston made two significant additions to the team in hopes that they could help raise the team’s shooting from long-range and so far, so good. Trevor Ariza, acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with the Wizards, leads the Rockets across the board with 18 attempts and 10 makes, connecting at a 56 percent clip. Jason Terry, who was added just before training camp, in a trade with Sacramento, has come off the bench to make 6-of-11 3-pointers.
A third addition to the team, 24-year old rookie Kostas Papanikolaou, has rebounded tremendously from the preseason with his 3-point shooting. In the preseason, Papanikolaou launched 32 3-pointers, but made only seven of them for a lousy 22 percent. Through his first three NBA games, he’s made an impressive 5-of-11 3-pointers and along with Ariza, is helping the Rockets capably replace Chandler Parsons, who departed for Dallas in the offseason.
Additionally, the Rockets opponents are unmercifully bad from long range. After the Lakers (3-10) and the Jazz (3-18) made a woeful 21 percent of their 3-pointers in the first two Rockets victories, the Celtics nearly posted an all-timer. Boston missed their first 22 3-point attempts, before Jeff Green finally knocked one down. Boston finished 1-of-25 for an insane four percent. Through three games, Rockets opponents are 7-of-53 (13 percent). That’s three fewer makes than Trevor Ariza has by himself.
Bumps and bruises
When the Rockets depart for Philadelphia, they’ll have four of their 15 players dealing with some sort of injury. Both Dwight Howard and his backup Tarik Black, both suffered leg injuries in the win against Boston on Saturday night. Howard said after the game he banged knees in the first quarter and it was really sore. This time it was his right knee, he had hurt his left knee similarly, knocking knees with a teammate in practice during the preseason. Howard remained in the game and played through it, although when he checked out of the game with 5:47 remaining, just three seconds after throwing down a slam for his 13th and 14th points of the game, he went straight to the locker room to get it looked at and began to get treatment. He said he hoped to play against Philadelphia on Monday, but would know more Sunday and of course Monday before the game.
Black, a rookie from Kansas, took a shot to his left quadriceps during the second quarter, and while he tried to keep it loose after halftime by riding the bicycle while he was out of the game, he did not return. After the game, he said he didn’t think it was that bad, and figured he’d be ready to go on Monday.
Guard Pat Beverley missed the Celtics game with his hamstring injury suffered against Utah and is listed as day-to-day. He has had a history of quick, nearly miraculous recoveries from injury, but unfortunately he’s had an incredible amount of practice with recovery in the last two seasons, having worked through a torn muscle in his mid-section, a fractured right hand, an abdominal strain, a right knee sprain (meniscus tear), dehydration in the playoff series that included a visit to the hospital and now this strained hamstring.
Rookie center Clint Capela has been inactive all three games so far this season as he continues to work through a groin injury, although he has been able to do some work in practice recently.