The new look Houston Rockets are just starting to figure each other out, and are doing so at the right time.
Albeit a tall order, the Rockets are making a push towards the playoffs and could take advantage of the San Antonio Spurs' potentially faltering towards the end of the year. The Spurs have a brutal schedule to end the season and the Rockets are creeping up while putting the pressure squarely on the Spurs' shoulders.
Including a hard fought loss against the Boston Celtics and a tough road loss to the Bulls, the Rockets have won five of their last seven games.
The Rockets really took the wind out of their sails last night against the Bulls, however. They blew a five-point halftime lead by having one of the worst shooting performances in a 13-point third quarter I have ever seen.
It was embarrassing to the point that I was changing the channel to the Woman's Basketball Tournament to watch a team that could put the ball in the basket.
They pulled within four twice towards the end of the third as well as the middle of the fourth, but could not make enough stops or shots to take back the lead. This loss could prove the beginning of the end to Red Nation's season.
Aaron Brooks is quickly proving he is a go-to player down the stretch, hitting a game-winning jumper to down the Nuggets last week, and scoring seven straight points in the final two minutes to steal a victory away from the Knicks at the Garden on Sunday.
Kevin Martin is silencing the critics that thought he was just a player that was succeeding on a bad team with the Kings. He is putting up strong numbers with the Rockets and is starting to gel with the first group. Since joining the Rockets, Martin has averaged 22.6 points per game.
K-Mart is an important piece moving forward. The Rockets invested a great deal of money in his remaining three-year, $36 million contract when they traded for him.
If they want to have any chance at winning the championship in those years, this improvement, along with the chemistry he is building with his teammates, will have to continue.
I wrote in my previous article about Luis Scola giving fans reasons to forget Carl Landry and his 44 point performance a little over a week ago as something to remember for a long time. No one expected Scola could put up that type of performance.
Although it was against the Nets, Scola looked like one of the most dominant big men in the game that night. Since the Landry trade, he has averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, which is about as good as it gets for a power forward that is the second or even third scoring option.
I know I said the Rockets are making a push for the final playoff spot, but despite the fact that everything is coming together at the right time, injuries to Shane Battier and Jordan Hill coupled with how late it is in the season, means that the likelihood of them actually pulling off a miracle is pretty marginal.
Battier hurt his knee against the Knicks and did not return to play against Chicago last night, and it showed. Battier is the life-blood of this team and keeps things together when they aren't going well. His presence was missed on the court last night for sure.
Hill, who was coming off his best performance against his former team the Knicks, went down with what looked to be a bad ankle injury against the Bulls when he landed on another player's foot. He was on the floor for several minutes before being helped off the floor. He did not return and there is no news as to the extent of the injury.
If either of these players misses any more time, you can pretty much write off the Rockets' post season hopes.
All of this being said, the recent surge still provides the organization and its fans some confidence moving forward, considering the fact that Yao Ming will be coming back next season, hopefully at full strength.