After another stunning win in this short season — the Rockets beating Utah handily in Salt Lake 113-96 Monday night to push their record to 3-1 — I think even the most die-hard Rockets fan has to be shocked at how well they are playing together as a team, not to mention the millions of NBA fans who thought they were going to be terrible. The Rockets are shocking everyone right now.
I never thought the Rockets were going to be as bad as some people predicted this season, like Charles Barkley saying they were going to be the worst team in the Western Conference this season. But to beat Portland and Utah in consecutive games so early in the season, with 8 players scoring in double figures last night in Utah? I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.
Still, Barkley made himself look like an ass again. Remember when he said back in Yao’s rookie year that Yao would never score more than 19 points as a pro, and had to kiss a donkey’s butt on national TV after losing that bet?
This team continues to amaze us: the 22-game winning streak two seasons ago that had spans where either Yao or McGrady didn’t play. Two victories against the Lakers in the playoffs last season without Yao or McGrady playing. Chuck Hayes now as the starting center. A very short point guard in Aaron Brooks showing no signs of being handicapped because of his lack of height in the NBA. A free agent signee in Trevor Ariza, who no one thought would be this good this early, even his former team the Lakers. An “offensively-challenged” Shane Battier being more aggressive and amping up his offense. A rookie in Chase Budinger (17 points Monday night in 22 minutes) showing skills and maturity far beyond his middle-of-second round draft selection expectations. The list goes on and on.
You’ve got to these guys a ton of credit, including coach Rick Adelman. They were expected to be a shambles by now. They may still miss the playoffs when it’s all said and done, as everyone had predicted. Even without Yao, though, you can’t help but want to watch each one of their games to see what they will do next. And none is bigger than the Rockets’ next game on Wednesday: a rematch against the Lakers at Toyota Center. You can bet Ariza is going to be motivated for that game. Will he eclipse his career high point total (33) from Saturday night’s game against Portland? That’s going to be Must See TV.