The Houston Rockets look to be improving after a devastating 0-5 start to the season, which has put them five games behind the Southwest division-leading Spurs and Hornets.
Houston suffered a series of heartbreaking losses to begin the season, including a two-point loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, and a three-point loss in overtime at division rival San Antonio.
Though many experts picked the Rockets to challenge the Lakers for the Western Conference crown before the start of the season, it looks as if Houston must first focus on making the field of 16 playoff teams.
If this were the NFL, Houston would be dead in the water at 3-6. But with any season stretching over 82 games, there is plenty of time for the Rockets to bounce back.
Houston is in the midst of a two-game win streak and has won three out of its last four. The Rockets will go for their third straight win tonight at home against the Chicago Bulls.
Even more surprising than the Rockets' current resurgence is that Houston has done it without star center Yao Ming, who has missed the last three games due to a strained tendon in his left leg.
Yao has been placed on limited minutes this season and has been held out of back-to-backs after missing all of last season while recovering from foot surgery.
Houston's big three of Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks has been huge so far this season.
Scola leads the Rockets in rebounding (10.8), Martin leads the team in scoring (24.1) and Brooks leads Houston in assists (5.4). Combined the three account for 58 percent of the Rockets' scoring production.
The play of Houston's big three, and not Yao, will ultimately determine whether or not the Rockets can contend for a title this season. But having an extra 7-foot-6 frame to throw at Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the playoffs would certainly help.
The Rockets will go on the road for a two-game trip after tonight's game against the Bulls, where they will play the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors before returning home for a two-game stand.
Houston is currently last in the Southwest at 3-6, and five games behind the two leaders. The Rockets are also the only team in the league with an even scoring differential, scoring 107.7 per game while allowing the same amount.
Look on the bright side, Rockets fans, there are still 73 games left on the schedule.
Patrick Clarke is a student at Towson University and a writing intern for Bleacher Report.