by Adam Wexler – Houston TV and Radio Personality
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Pacers at Rockets, Jan. 10
Paul George has been a big time stat sheet stuffer this season, particularly during his last four games. From Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, George scored 29 points per game while grabbing 8.5 boards a night. Both Houston and Indiana are in the top ten in the league in pace, so there’s a good chance both teams will get up and down the floor quickly. It should be noted that the Pacers will be in the final game of a four-game road trip.
Rockets at Grizzlies, Jan. 12
Over the last few seasons, this division battle has rarely been pretty or free-flowing. Aside from James Harden, who has poured in 30 or more points against the Grizzlies in two of the last four meetings, there has not been a lot of offense from his teammates. The balanced attack of the Grizzlies doesn’t lend itself to too many great stat lines on their roster, but Mike Conley has averaged 23 points per game on 65 percent shooting in his two games against Houston this season.
Timberwolves at Rockets, Jan. 13
This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams, but James Harden averaged more than 31 points and 8.5 assists per game against the Wolves last season. While it’s still a struggle for Ricky Rubio to score, expect him to pile up the assists against the Rockets. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns is as reliable as it gets for a productive night, having posted a double-double in 17 of 36 career games.
Cavaliers at Rockets, Jan. 15
Kyrie Irving has certainly come back with a bang. He had his first 30+ point game just seven games into his season, which began just after Christmas. He’s also helped the Cavaliers pick up their pace, recently scoring 120+ points in back-to-back games after not scoring 120 points in any game this season. Expect plenty of rebounds to be had by the Cavalier bigs as well. The Cavaliers are among the top teams in defensive rating, but are closer to the middle of the pack in terms of field goal percentage allowed. So if the Rockets can limit their turnovers, they could put some big points on the board.
Rockets at Lakers, Jan. 17
The Lakers have been fairly defense-less much of the season despite a slight up-tick recently. Houston has scored 126 and 107 points in their 2 lopsided wins over the Lakers this season. The Lakers have no one to slow Dwight Howard, including Roy Hibbert, who Howard has had little trouble with lately. Kobe Bryant, has only shot above 50 percent in two games this season, which both came against the Rockets. He shot exactly 9-of-16 in each game and is averaging 23.5 points per game against Houston.
Rockets at Clippers, Jan. 18
Blake Griffin is averaging 28.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in two games against Houston this season. You can also usually count on Chris Paul for a night of assists, but not much in the way of points. He’s shot under 45 percent in five straight games against Houston. Harden’s second highest scoring game this season was a 46-point explosion in a four point Rockets win over the Clippers on November 7.
Pistons at Rockets, Jan. 20
In their first meeting this season, the Rockets had their hands full with Andre Drummond, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds. Just know that the he shot 18 free throws and only made four. In a closer game, the Pistons may consider sitting him if Houston employs an intentional fouling strategy. Reggie Jackson also popped in 31 points. Expect a strong, all-around stat-filling night from Harden and a possible Clint Capela double-double.
Bucks at Rockets, Jan. 22
The balanced 8-man rotation for the Bucks has limited their players from having huge statistical games, but both Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo could present matchup issues for the Rockets. Conversely, Howard and Capela should be looking to post strong rebound numbers and get a lot chances at the rim. While Howard missed both games against the Bucks last season, he’s posted a double-double against Milwaukee in 14 straight games, including a trio of 20-20 games.
Mavericks at Rockets, Jan. 24
This is the third meeting of the season for these two teams, with Howard having missed the first two. The Rockets have looked to exploit Dirk Nowitzki defensively, which could mean a big game from Terrence Jones or Capela. JJ Barea has had a handful or explosive games against the Rockets if you’re looking for a sleeper.
Rockets at Pelicans, Jan. 25
The idea that Anthony Davis will draw the attention of the defense, leaving shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon open is something that hasn’t worked much against the rest of the league. However, in a pair of games between the Pelicans and Rockets, Anderson had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting and 16 points and five rebounds in the second. Meanwhile, Gordon is 7-of-13 on 3-pointers in the two match ups. Harden has not shot well in either game, but still had at least 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in each game. Howard has struggled with the slower, stronger bigs that the Pelicans drape all over him. It might be a night where Ty Lawson or Pat Beverley will look to get a little more of their offense going.
Rockets at Spurs, Jan. 27
It seems reasonable to lean on Harden for a big game after being held relatively in check during the first two meetings with San Antonio. Look for the new big two - Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge - to be the driving forces on offense for the Spurs. Tim Duncan scored zero points for the first time in his career in the last meeting with the Rockets.
Rockets at Thunder, Jan. 29
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the most lethal fantasy tandem in the league. But OKC has also become less of a stalwart defensively and tend to end up in a battle of who can score the most. That bodes well for Harden and likely at least one other Rockets wing player. This game could be Marcus Thornton’s turn to provide instant offense off the bench.
Wizards at Rockets, Jan. 30
These matchups have usually gone according to form, with Howard and Harden getting their usual numbers. On the Wizards side, John Wall and (if healthy) Bradley Beal will get theirs as well. While not usually a pretty game or high-scoring affair, expect a lot of 3-pointers to be launched in this one.