Rockets Try to Prove They Belong Among NBA Elite

Categories: Sports

Rockets test their mettle in the toughest stretch of the season.
Over the last two months, the Rockets feasted on weaker opponents, which led to an eight-game winning streak and position among the top teams in the Western Conference. Then, with a five-game road swing on the West Coast and a pair of losses to the best teams in that stretch of the schedule, they fell from third to fifth. That's how tight the teams are in the West and how tough competition is for those top spots.

Beating the bad teams, like the Rockets did Saturday at home against the Pistons, is what good teams are supposed to do. All good teams lose a few to squads that are beneath them in talent. The Thunder dropped a home game to Cleveland recently. The Spurs coughed up one to the same Pistons team the Rockets slaughtered Saturday. These things happen. But, the Rockets have joined the best teams in the league in terms of their consistency against the worst.

The next crucial step in their development is learning how to beat the best teams. While they are 8-1 against San Antonio, Portland and Golden State, they are 0-5 against the Thunder and the Clippers. This may underscore just how critical matchups are in the NBA, but it also demonstrates an inconsistency the Rockets must overcome to rise to the next level.

Over the next seven games, they will get their chance.

Starting Tuesday night, they are home for the NBA champion Miami Heat, one of two games against LeBron James' crew in this stretch. Since 1996, the Rockets are 3-14 against the Heat including losses in their last three meetings. Their last win against Miami was in 2008 when Tracy McGrady was still playing for the Rockets and James was in Cleveland.

But, the fun doesn't end there.

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