The Houston Rockets have won five straight games in large part due to Dwight Howard.
Howard has been an absolute beast inside. During the Rockets’ win streak, he is averaging 26.2 points per game and 10.8 rebounds. That’s an uptick of 7.4 points from his season’s average. He is also shooting 65.2 percent from the free-throw line. Through that streak, he’s squared off mostly against Tim Duncan, Samuel Dalembert, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, Miles Plumlee and Zaza Pachulia while seeing plenty of double-teams.
The Rockets have averaged 108.6 points per game as a team through this winning streak.
Can Howard keep up this hot streak?
Houston’s next five games are against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. His likely counterparts will be Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf for the Timberwolves, Marcin Gortat and Nene for the Wizards, Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre for the Lakers, David Lee and Andrew Bogut for the Warriors, while Plumlee will probably see the majority of the time defending Howard again when the Rockets face the Suns. No matter who the primary defender is, Howard will surely see plenty of double-teams from each of these opponents.
Howard’s recent free-throw percentage of 65.2 percent could also be a big stipulation as to how team’s decide to play versus the Rockets. At times if an opponent has been trailing late in the fourth quarter they have used the Hack-a-Howard strategy hoping that he will miss a majority of his free-throws. If he can make close to two-thirds of his attempts then that strategy is basically negated.
This will not be an easy stretch for Kevin McHale‘s squad as the lone home game will be against the Wizards. The Timberwolves have been highly inconsistent but are still a tough team to beat especially if Kevin Love plays. Washington is a much improved team with a lot of talent. The Lakers fans will be fired up when Dwight Howard comes back to Los Angeles to face the team he played for last season. Golden State and Phoenix are two of the fastest and highest scoring teams in the NBA.
A lot of the Rockets success could hinge on Howard’s aggressiveness and assertiveness on the offensive end. If Howard can continue to dominate the middle, there are few teams in the league that could stop him.