The first time the Houston Rockets came to Dallas this season, they left with a 107-104 loss that dropped their record to 11-14.
And that was when they had Chris Paul and Clint Capela healthy. But they also had a load of early season issues that delayed any sort of liftoff they were hoping for.
Since then, both Capela and Paul have missed significant time and yet the Rockets have had a revival nonetheless.
James Harden is a firm favorite for the MVP award and the Rockets have won seven in a row as they make their last appearance at American Airlines Center this season on Sunday in an early, 6 p.m. tip.
The Rockets have gone 29-11 since their first trip to Dallas and have reached 40-25 for the season, good for third in the Western Conference playoff order.
They have won at Boston, at Toronto, at Golden State and against Philadelphia in Houston. That’s four of the presumed contenders for the NBA title.
During that span, here’s a few key numbers:
Harden has averaged 37.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, although he has shot just 27.3 percent from the 3-point arc.
Paul, who missed more than a month with a hamstring problem, has averaged 14 points, 9.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 30.2 percent from 3-point range.
Capela, who also missed a month with a thumb injury, has averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds during the winning streak and shot 65 percent from the floor.
Eric Gordon, another player who missed time to injury, is perhaps the biggest beneficiary during the streak. He’s averaged 18.2 points and shot 44 percent from deep. Those are both nice bumps from his season-long averages.
As coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters in Houston after the Rockets’ win over Philadelphia on Friday: “I think it’s very obvious when Clint, Chris and James play together and they’re all healthy, we’re pretty hard to beat. It’s taken this long to get all three of them on the floor and in a good rhythm and they’re doing that.”
The Rockets’ recent surge has them rightfully believing that they have all the pieces they need now – healthy pieces – to make another serious run at the championship.
But you have to wonder if they aren’t still walking on eggshells to some degree.
Last season in the Western Conference finals, they had the Golden State Warriors on the ropes, only to lose a 3-2 lead in the series when Paul went out with a damaged hamstring.
The Rockets in many respects have only one thing to fear and that’s their health. They have proven when healthy that they can beat all comers. Injuries are a threat to derail any good team. But the Rockets have history working against them.
Until they prove they can keep all their heavy lifters on the floor, doubts will persist.