For the first time ever, the Houston Rockets are living up to the expectations that had been set for them. 65 games into the season, Houston now has the number one spot in the Western Conference, thanks to an insane 21-game winning streak.
There are justifications on how this team has won this many games in a row, even without All-Star Yao Ming. Only 7 of the 21 games have been on the road; those road opponents were Indiana, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Cleveland (pre-trade without four key players), Dallas without Dirk Nowitzki, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The 20-pt victory over the Hornets was their only really impressive road win. The teams with a winning record that they've faced at home are Golden State, Denver, Cleveland (again sans four players), Portland, and New Orleans without David West.
I don't think it's unreasonable to say that the Rockets have had a pretty easy schedule over the past month and a half. But that doesn't mean this accomplishment is any less remarkable. With Yao injured, Mike James and Bonzi Wells traded, Steve Francis benched, and rookies and Dikembe Mutombo filling in, the Rockets have posted the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (the longest is LA's 33-game winning streak back in 1972). Rick Adelman is now the favorite to win Coach of the Year and T-Mac is an MVP candidate (albeit a weak one).
Houston's next five games will have them staring defeat in the face like never before: Lakers at home, Celtics at home, at New Orleans, at Golden State, and at Phoenix on a back-to-back. The odds are stacked for their winning streak to come to an end this week, but that doesn't mean I won't be watching.
The Rockets' appear to have luck on their side though; Pau Gasol sprained his ankle in New Orleans on Friday and is unlikely to play in Houston.
By the way, kudos to ABC for actually having watchable, interesting games on Sunday.