The Houston Rockets draw a tough matchup Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors and do so while fighting off the injury bug in the process. There’s been a run of injuries which have hit the team as of late, and they’re primed to be without star point guard Chris Paul once again, among others. With Houston coming in at less than full strength, they’ll need a few players to step up and fill the void.
Paul’s injury has been a hot-button topic, as he suffered a hamstring strain six games ago against the Miami Heat. While the Rockets have managed to reel off wins in all six games following, they’ve done so with a short rotation. Along with Paul, guard Eric Gordon and forward James Ennis have both been sidelined as well. This all comes on top of the Carmelo Anthony situation, who hasn’t been with the team since the early stages of the season.
There is some good news, as the Rockets will likely get Ennis back from injury on Thursday, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported.
Even with Ennis back in the mix, a lack of depth on the Rockets’ current roster remains, and we’re going to take a look at the group as well as the starting unit against the Warriors.
Rockets Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Warriors
*Notates projected starter
C: Clint Capela*, Nene Hilario
PF: P.J. Tucker*, Marquese Chriss, Gary Clark
SF: James Ennis*, Danuel House
SG: Austin Rivers*, Gerald Green
PG: James Harden*, Brandon Knight, Michael Carter-Williams
The return of Ennis alone is enough to leave some level of optimism heading into this game, as it’ll allow both Gerald Green and Danuel House to provide scoring off the bench. One big concern is the lack of big men, but fortunately, the Warriors don’t utilize a traditional center all that often
The addition of Austin Rivers has been solid following Paul’s injury, as he’s played 31, 33, 37, and 41 minutes in his first our games. Rivers has scored in double-digits in each game and is at least helping out by providing useful and productive minutes. He could certainly remain a key part of the rotation even when Paul returns.
James Harden’s Exceptional Run
While the Rockets currently sit at 21-15 on the season, that comes thanks to a recent stretch in which they won 10 of their past 11. Over that span, Harden has scored 35 or more points on nine occasions (including each of the past eight games) while falling below 30 points just once. Even more recent than that, we’ve seen the reigning NBA Most Valuable player average 41.8 points over the last five games.
Harden has three triple-doubles in the month of December alone and is currently averaging 33.3 points, 8.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that Harden isn’t once again the top MVP candidate, with potentially only Giannis Antetokoounmpo rivaling him.