The Houston Rockets have bounced along to the tune of a 7-6 December and their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday marked just the second time they have won back-to-back games since closing November with a five-game winning streak.
Part of the problem for the Rockets is how thin they are in the frontcourt, although injuries have done a number on almost the entire roster at some point or another already in the first eight weeks of the season.
Dwight Howard is the only Rocket who has played in all 31 games this season. James Harden has missed six games with ankle problems, Chandler Parsons sat out a couple of games because of a sore back, Jeremy Lin has missed 10 games because of a knee sprain and back spasms and Patrick Beverley is currently out with a broken hand.
With Howard limited to 18 minutes because of foul trouble Thursday night against the Grizzlies, Donatas Motiejunas was pressed into 23 minutes of playing time, the most action he has seen in a game all season and more than half of the 45 minutes he had played this month prior to the game against Memphis.
Asik initially went out Dec. 2 with a thigh bruise but has been bothered by swelling in the same (right) knee. It was thought Asik might be close to a return, but the swelling flared back up. A detailed MRI showed no damage to the knee and the Rockets are at a bit of a loss to explain the problem. They sent Asik’s most recent test results to an outside expert, hoping for some answers.
“He had some swelling again in his knee,” McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “It seems like he amps it up to a certain level and it swells up again. They’re still trying to figure out what’s causing that swelling when he gets up to a certain level of activity. The MRI, they sent it out again for certain people to look at. His symptoms are not going the way the doctors think they should be.”
Smith has also had trouble getting back into action after spraining his knee. He’s only played eight games and 67 minutes this season. He missed a month before returning at Sacramento on Dec. 15. He played 20 minutes in that game, 14 on Dec. 18 against the Bulls, 12 against Indiana on Dec. 20 and had to come out on Dec. 21 at Detroit after just four minutes. He hasn’t played the last two games and there is no timetable for his return.
“He seems like he’s another guy that gets 95 yards down the field,” McHale said. “You think he’s going to be fine and all of a sudden, he falls back.”
Houston is 20-11, good for fifth in the Western Conference and 3½ games behind the Spurs in the Southwest Division.