The Houston Rockets, one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA, have finally learned how their road back to the playoffs will look. The complete slate of games was released by NBA.com and can be found below.
Houston became one of the hottest tickets in the league almost overnight, as the up-and-coming franchise acquired Dwight Howard in unrestricted free agency early last month.
The big man is now the centerpiece of a legitimate title contender in the loaded Western Conference, as he joins James Harden and the rest of the Rockets’ supporting cast that made an unexpected foray into the postseason last year.
All eyes are going to be on D12 as he attempts to show he is still a franchise-caliber talent that is capable of leading a squad on a deep playoff run—as he did when he took the Orlando Magic to the finals in 2009.
Will he have what it takes to grind out the regular season, stay healthy and nab a top seed in the West, or will injuries and drama follow him to Houston and derail his title dreams?
Keep reading for a prediction on that, along with analysis for a handful of must-watch Rockets games and more.
*All times ET
2013-14 Houston Rockets Schedule
|Wed 30||vs Charlotte Bobcats||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 1||vs Dallas Mavericks||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 2||@ Utah Jazz||9:00 p.m.|
|Mon 4||@ L.A. Clippers||10:30 p.m.|
|Tue 5||@ Portland Trail Blazers||10:00 p.m.|
|Thu 7||vs L.A. Lakers||9:30 p.m.|
|Sat 9||vs L.A. Clippers||8:00 p.m.|
|Mon 11||vs Toronto Raptors||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 13||@ Philadelphia 76ers||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu 14||@ New York Knicks||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 16||vs Denver Nuggets||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue 19||vs Boston Celtics||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 20||@ Dallas Mavericks||9:30 p.m.|
|Sat 23||vs Minnesota Timberwolves||8:00 p.m.|
|Mon 25||@ Memphis Grizzlies||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 27||vs Atlanta Hawks||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 29||vs Brooklyn Nets||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 30||@ San Antonio Spurs||8:30 p.m.|
|Mon 2||@ Utah Jazz||9:00 p.m.|
|Wed 4||vs Phoenix Suns||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 6||vs Golden State Warriors||8:00 p.m.|
|Sun 8||vs Orlando Magic||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu 12||@ Portland Trail Blazers||10:30 p.m.|
|Fri 13||@ Golden State Warriors||10:30 p.m.|
|Sun 15||@ Sacramento Kings||6:00 p.m.|
|Wed 18||vs Chicago Bulls||9:30 p.m.|
|Fri 20||@ Indiana Pacers||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 21||@ Detroit Pistons||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 23||vs Dallas Mavericks||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 25||@ San Antonio Spurs||8:00 p.m.|
|Thu 26||vs Memphis Grizzlies||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 28||vs New Orleans Pelicans||8:00 p.m.|
|Sun 29||@ Oklahoma City Thunder||7:00 p.m.|
|Tue 31||vs Sacramento Kings||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 3||vs New York Knicks||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 8||vs L.A. Lakers||9:30 p.m.|
|Fri 10||@ Atlanta Hawks||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat 11||@ Washington Wizards||7:00 p.m.|
|Mon 13||@ Boston Celtics||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed 15||@ New Orleans Pelicans||8:00 p.m.|
|Thu 16||vs Oklahoma City Thunder||9:30 p.m.|
|Sat 18||vs Milwaukee Bucks||8:00 p.m.|
|Mon 20||vs Portland Trail Blazers||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 22||vs Sacramento Kings||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 24||vs Memphis Grizzlies||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 25||@ Memphis Grizzlies||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue 28||vs San Antonio Spurs||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 29||@ Dallas Mavericks||8:30 p.m.|
|Sat 1||vs Cleveland Cavaliers||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 5||vs Phoenix Suns||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 8||@ Milwaukee Bucks||8:30 p.m.|
|Mon 10||@ Minnesota Timberwolves||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 12||vs Washington Wizards||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 19||@ L.A. Lakers||10:30 p.m.|
|Thu 20||@ Golden State Warriors||10:30 p.m.|
|Sun 23||@ Phoenix Suns||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue 25||@ Sacramento Kings||10:00 p.m.|
|Wed 26||@ L.A. Clippers||10:30 p.m.|
|Sat 1||vs Detroit Pistons||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue 4||vs Miami Heat||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 5||@ Orlando Magic||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 7||vs Indiana Pacers||9:30 p.m.|
|Sun 9||vs Portland Trail Blazers||7:00 p.m.|
|Tue 11||@ Oklahoma City Thunder||8:00 p.m.|
|Thu 13||@ Chicago Bulls||7:00 p.m.|
|Sun 16||@ Miami Heat||3:30 p.m.|
|Mon 17||vs Utah Jazz||8:00 p.m.|
|Thu 20||vs Minnesota Timberwolves||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 22||@ Cleveland Cavaliers||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 24||@ Charlotte Hornets||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu 27||vs Philadelphia 76ers||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 29||vs L.A. Clippers||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue 1||@ Brooklyn Nets||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 2||@ Toronto Raptors||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 4||vs Oklahoma City Thunder||9:30 p.m.|
|Sun 6||vs Denver Nuggets||7:00 p.m.|
|Tue 8||@ L.A. Lakers||10:30 p.m.|
|Wed 9||@ Denver Nuggets||9:00 p.m.|
|Fri 11||@ Minnesota Timberwolves||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 12||vs New Orleans Pelicans||8:00 p.m.|
|Mon 14||vs San Antonio Spurs||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 16||@ New Orleans Pelicans||8:00 p.m.|
Most Intriguing Matchups
Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
When: Thursday, November 7
This is going to be one of the most bitter and hard-fought games of the season, as L.A. will be looking to get its revenge on Howard after he spurned it in free agency.
Kobe Bryant should be back in action after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury last year. He will be joined by veteran teammates Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, who are hoping to improve upon their wildly disappointing performances in the 2012-13 campaign.
While the Lakers look to be outgunned on paper, the Black Mamba has plenty of motivation and enough pride to will his Purple and Gold side to a victory.
It’ll be interesting to see if Howard can step up and show that he made the right decision to leave an extra year and $30 million on the table when he decided to sign with Houston.
If the Rockets can’t find a way to pull this one out, it’s only going to add more fuel to the smouldering fire that has surrounded Howard and his highly publicized journey from L.A. to Houston.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder
When: Sunday, December 29
The Rockets were ultimately eliminated by the Thunder in the 2013 playoffs, but not before they could deliver a mortal blow to OKC’s title chances.
In Game 2 of the heated first-round series, Patrick Beverley lunged at Russell Westbrook for a steal as the Thunder point guard attempted to call a timeout.
Westbrook tore his meniscus in the resulting collision and was sidelined for the remainder of Oklahoma City’s short playoff run.
The Thunder would win that series but lose in five games to the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference semifinals without their second-best player.
Prior to the injury, the Thunder were in prime position to advance back to the NBA Finals and will not soon forget Beverley’s controversial actions.
Add in the bad blood lingering from the Harden trade last year, and this is a recipe for a classic contest.
This should be a chippy battle from the opening tip to the final whistle.
Predicted 2013-14 Record for Houston Rockets: 58-24
The Rockets have a number of new pieces and just one player over the age of 30—Francisco Garcia—but that inexperience and unfamiliarity should quickly fade.
While it may take this emerging club a few games to jell and get going, Houston should ultimately transform into one of the marquee teams in the entire league in short order.
Howard, Harden and a supporting cast that includes great talents such as Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Aaron Brooks, Donatas Motiejunas and others are more than skilled enough to beat any opponent in the Association.
It may fall short of the best record, but Houston is a lock for a top-four seed and is primed to make serious noise in the postseason.