Houston Rockets' 5 Must-Win Games of the Early Season

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent IOctober 20, 2013

Houston Rockets' 5 Must-Win Games of the Early Season

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    After winning the offseason, the Houston Rockets will be tested early on to prove that they can win during the regular season. In the first month of the season, there are five must-win games immediately facing the newly competitive Rockets.

    The Rockets signed superstar center Dwight Howard over the summer to pair up with James Harden, creating one of the most dynamic duos in the entire league. General manager Daryl Morey did a lot of shuffling around to create a top-tier roster in Houston.

    For the first time since the Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady era, Houston can contend for an NBA championship. In order to back up all the talk, the Rockets need to go out and win these five games to show that they can play with the best.

5. The Re-Return of Linsanity

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    Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks

    Date: Thursday, Nov. 14

    Location: Madison Square Garden, New York

    TV: TNT, 8 p.m. ET


    Jeremy Lin already made his return to the Garden last year, but that doesn't mean that the New York fans won't come out to see their former zero-to-hero star. Linsanity returns (again) to the Big Apple, after he and the Rockets ran away with a blowout win last time.

    On national television, this game features two teams who are legitimately contending for a title. The Knickerbockers have fallen short of the expectations the past couple of years, and this may be their last run for awhile with star forward Carmelo Anthony becoming a free agent at the end of the season.

    Houston, however, is new to the title-contention category after acquiring Dwight Howard over the summer. The Rockets have had the Knicks' number the past few years, not dropping a single contest in their last seven tries.

    They will look to continue the winning streak on the road in a matchup with plenty of headlines for the media to pick from. This is a must-win for the contending Rockets and Jeremy Lin in the place he once called home.

4. The Season Opener Versus Charlotte

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    Charlotte Bobcats vs. Houston Rockets

    Date: Wednesday, Oct. 30

    Location: Toyota Center, Houston

    TV: CSN Houston, 8 p.m. ET


    Dwight Howard's first regular-season game as a Houston Rocket will be in front of the home crowd versus a subpar Charlotte Bobcats squad. For this guaranteed sellout, the Rockets have to deliver the win for Houston fans.

    There is a lot of hype in Houston after such a big offseason, but a loss to the Bobcats would be a quick buzz-kill. The Rockets have big plans on their minds, but they can't look past Charlotte and end up losing a gimme.

    If you're the Rockets, don't take the Bobcats lightly, because in the NBA anybody can beat anybody on any given night. The Bobcats got off to a hot start last year before fading into obscurity once again, so you never know.

    The Rockets should start the season with an easy blowout win and give the fans something to be excited about.

3. A Trip to Lob City

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    Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Date: Monday, Nov. 4

    Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles

    TV: NBATV, 10:30 p.m. ET


    Both the Clippers and the Rockets emerged over the offseason as title contenders in a crowded Western Conference. The Clippers re-signed Chris Paul and added a terrific supporting cast full of shooters to surround him. Many people think the Clippers could win the Western Conference this year with new head coach Doc Rivers.

    The Rockets also believe that they can make a splash out west this year. This game against the Clippers is a test for Houston to gauge how good the team really is.

    A win on the road against an elite team would be a huge boost of confidence for the young Rockets.

2. The Texas Two-Step

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    Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets

    Date: Friday, Nov. 1

    Location: Toyota Center, Houston 

    TV: CSN Houston, 8 p.m. ET


    The Rockets and Mavericks have a strong in-state rivalry. They have battled each other in the division for the past decade. Last season, the Rockets finally finished ahead of Dallas in the standings, but they still lost the season series 3-1. The Mavs have the Rockets' number, and the Rockets need to break through this season.

    Dallas had a few good pickups this summer, such as Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, but it still cannot compete with some of the powerhouses in the Western Conference. The Rockets should be the favorite in this matchup in front of their home crowd.

    The fans want to see the Rockets win, but it's a special bonus when they beat the hated Mavericks. The Dallas versus Houston rivalry is intense, and a win against the other is a big deal.

    This game is the second of the season, and both teams will be looking to get off to a good start. The Rockets need a win to show the fans that this year they mean business.

1. Dwight Howard and the Lakers Meet Again

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    Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

    Date: Thursday, Nov. 7

    Location: Toyota Center, Houston

    TV: TNT, 9:30 p.m. ET


    Of all the games this season, this one has to be circled on every Rockets and Lakers fans' calendars. Dwight Howard did the unthinkable when he left the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise and took his talents to Houston.

    Last season in L.A. was supposed to be special, but it turned out to be a nightmare. The Spurs put the Lakers out of their misery with a sweep in the first round last season.

    With Kobe Bryant's health uncertain, the Lakers may have an even worse year this season, but all of that takes a backseat to this game. Lakers fans want this win more than any other.

    On national TV, two rivals will battle in perhaps the most important game of the season. All eyes will be on Howard, and the Rockets need a win to show that they and Howard are moving on from last year.