In another rebuilding season, the young Houston Rockets weren’t expecting to be good in 2022-23. But it is possible that some growth and improvement is masked by a tougher-than-normal schedule.
Through the team’s first 23 games, Houston is currently 6-17 (.261) and tied with San Antonio for the Western Conference’s worst record. For a full 82-game season, that would represent a record pace of approximately 21-61, only one game better than their pace of 2021-22. But there’s some important context to consider within that data.
The Rockets have played 15 road games and only eight times at home, making for the biggest home-road discrepancy among NBA teams. They’re 3-5 (.375) at Toyota Center, which would be good for a win pace of more than 30 games over a full season. It’s certainly not great, but that’s well above the 20-win clip of last season and the 3-14 record (.176) they posted in 17 games to begin this season.
The schedule has been especially odd over the past two weeks. After a close home loss on Nov. 20 to Golden State, the Rockets didn’t play again until Nov. 25. That kicked off a stretch of six games in nine days, including two different periods of three games in four nights.
The good news is that Houston did show promising signs, going 3-3 and registering two victories over likely playoff teams in the form of a home win over Atlanta and Friday’s road win at Phoenix.
“This was the end of six games in nine days, it wasn’t just the back-to-back, and we went 3-3,” said head coach Stephen Silas, whose weary team shot just 3-of-25 on 3-pointers (12.0%) in Saturday’s loss at Golden State. “All in all, I’m pretty proud of our guys.”
Two of those three wins in this recent stretch came on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, immediately after the Rockets had lots of time at home to practice and rest while avoiding extensive travel. If that was a factor, it should benefit them again over the coming weeks.
Starting with Monday’s game versus Philadelphia, the Rockets will play at home in eight of their next nine games, including a season-long homestand of seven games between Dec. 11 and Dec. 23. The lone road game is a short flight to San Antonio on Dec. 8, meaning that Houston won’t leave Texas again until after Christmas.
By opponent, the upcoming December schedule isn’t particularly easy, since the Rockets will face a few title contenders like the 76ers, Bucks, Suns, and Heat. But they will also play the Spurs twice and Orlando, teams with identical or worse records.
That’s unlikely to bring a dramatic shift in results. The Rockets are still quite young, and contention remains a ways away. None of the underlying fundamentals have changed. But it may make them more watchable while perhaps bringing more encouraging moments for top prospects like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Alperen Sengun.