5 Positive Signs from the Houston Rockets' First Week

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent INovember 4, 2013

5 Positive Signs from the Houston Rockets' First Week

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    In the first week of the season, the Houston Rockets played three games and won them all, showing a lot of positive signs of things to come. The defense has been strong, "The Beard" is scoring left and right, and no one can out-rebound the Dwight Howard-Omer Asik tandem.

    The Rockets are 3-0 for the first time since 2008 when Metta World Peace was still Ron Artest and Yao Ming was still the face of the franchise. The team still has a lot of room for improvement as the season continues, but it's hard to be disappointed with an undefeated start.

    Things are looking up in H-Town. Here's a look at some positive signs so far for the Rockets.

Team Rebounding

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    After signing Dwight Howard to join Omer Asik, the Rockets expected to dominate the glass, and so far they have. In all three games this season Houston has won the rebound battle, which is a big reason why they are undefeated.

    Howard hauled in 26 rebounds in the season opener, tying a career high, and is now averaging 17 boards per game. Asik is averaging 11.7 rebounds per game himself, giving the Rockets two top-ten rebounders in the NBA.

    If the Rockets decide to keep Asik and play him alongside Howard throughout the season, they will own the paint against the majority of opponents in the league. Asik is a 7-footer and Howard is the best in the business at cleaning the boards and turning away shots.

    The Rockets' rim protection is unmatched. If they can keep up the pace they will continue to win ballgames.

Free Throws (Sort Of)

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    At 69.1 percent, the Rockets definitely need to improve their free-throw shooting. The big reason for the poor percentage is Dwight Howard's expected struggles from the line.

    On the bright side, however, the Rockets are getting to the line at an impressive rate. Houston leads the league with 36.7 free-throw attempts per game. The Mavericks did try the Hack-a-Howard strategy in the third quarter of their game in Houston, in which Howard shot 3-of-8.

    With Harden and Howard, the two leading free-throw shooters from last season, now on the same team, you can count on the Rockets consistently getting to the charity stripe night in and night out.

Overall Defense

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    Last year, the Rockets struggled mightily on defense, allowing the third most points per game. In the early stages of this season, the defense has been much better.

    Houston has surrendered just 93.7 points per game, good for sixth fewest in the league, and 8.8 points lower than last year. Defense was the team's biggest concern last season, holding them back from advancing in the playoffs. Now, with "D12" in the mix, defense is no longer hindering the Rockets.

    Howard and Asik together give the Rockets incredible rim protection for 48 minutes a night, something they needed badly last year. This way, they don't have to stack the paint with the wings and can have better defense on the perimeter.

    Even though the guards are still not great defenders, teams struggle to get any easy baskets in the paint because the twin towers are down there waiting for them.

Scoring from the Beard

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    Everyone knows James Harden can score, but it's still nice to see the Beard in action. Harden is averaging 26.0 points per game so far, fourth best in the NBA.

    There were some questions about his knee heading into the season, and he had to get checked out in the locker room with a back issue in the season opener against the Charlotte Bobcats. Even when he's not 100 percent, Harden has still been able to tally up his point total.

    Harden's scoring has also come at opportune times. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to put away Charlotte. He dropped 34 on the hated rival Dallas Mavericks for a big win. He also led the charge in a spectacular comeback win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.

    It is clear early on that the Rockets need Harden to help carry the scoring load. It is also evident that Harden's scoring ability is nothing short of elite.

Come from Behind Win

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    The Rockets were tested early on with a trap game in Utah to start a three-game road trip. The Jazz jumped out to a lead as big as 19 in the first half, but the second half was all Rockets.

    Houston out-rebounded the Jazz 28-12 in the second half, and also shot 23-of-36 to outscore Utah 64-37 in the final two quarters. After a terrible first half where the defense was lackluster and the offense looked stagnant, the Rockets stepped up during gut-check time.

    For a young team with title hopes, it's good to see that the players stepped up when it mattered most and willed their way to a comeback win in a tough atmosphere. This win to start a difficult road trip was a significant one for the Rockets, and to come back against an old rival was just the icing on the cake.