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Houston Rockets Hope Lighter Schedule Leads to Liftoff

Rick Adelman and the Rockets had to have been looking forward to this.  After opening the season with one of the most brutal schedules in the NBA, the worst appears to be over.  Since November 10, Houston has played nine sets of back-to-back games.  Eleven of those contests came against playoff contenders.  Somehow, the Rockets survived the stretch with a 20-16 record and a .556 winning percentage.  Not too shabby for a squad many picked as lottery-bound to begin the year.    

Moving forward, the schedule gets much easier for Houston.  The Rockets will have the opportunity to begin piling up wins against the bottom half of the NBA, making a strong push towards the playoffs.  In truth, this turning point in the schedule couldn’t come at a better time for Rick Adelman’s squad.  The Rockets are currently on a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season.  While losing on the road to three of the league’s better teams (New Orleans, LA Lakers, and Phoenix) is hardly cause for panic, the Rockets’ rock-solid chemistry and balanced attack has looked shaky of late.  In Phoenix on Thursday, Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry had fantastic offensive games, combining for 65 points on 55 percent shooting.  The rest of the team, however, shot just 35 percent.   The Rockets continue to hustle, but they’ll need to share the load more effectively to return to their winning ways.  Trevor Ariza in particular has struggled mightily, shooting 37.7 percent from the field and an abysmal 31.2 percent from the three-point line.  He’s been no better from the free-throw stripe, lowering his percentage to 65.6 percent after a streak of bad games.

Are the Rockets in a slump?  Can they turn this losing streak around now that the schedule begins to slacken?  Or have they simply overachieved to this point, and are now showing signs of wear from the tough schedule?  Could we be seeing the real, under-talented Rockets emerge?  It will be interesting to watch what happens in the next six weeks.  The team’s play could affect GM Daryl Morey’s plans for the NBA trading deadline on February 18.