1971/72: The NBA finally came to the Lone Star State as the Rockets landed in Houston from San Diego. Since Houston is the headquarters of NASA the name Rockets was a natural fit and remained with the team. Elvin Hayes who was the star of the Rockets had been a hero at the University of Houston as the Cougars routinely sold out the Astrodome to see the “Big E” play, including a 1968 upset win over UCLA. However, the Rockets had trouble drawing fans as they struggled from the start losing their first six games. The Rockets would average only 4,9666 fans per game as they played all over Texas posting a record of 34-48.
1972/73: Prior to the start of their second season in Houston the Rockets trade Elvin Hayes to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin and future considerations. Now playing in the Central Division in the Eastern Conference the Rockets continued to sputter posting a record of 33-49, despite strong seasons from Rudy Tomjanovich, Jack Marin and Mike Newlin.
1973/74: After playing several games in San Antonio the previous season and rolling through Texas in their first the Rockets stay put in Houston all season as Rudy Tomjanovich and Calvin Murphy each average more then 20 points per game. However, the Rockets would continue to struggle finishing in third place with a record of 32-50.
1974/75: The Rockets begin to show some progress as they get off to a 10-5 start fueled by the amazing play making ability of Calvin Murphy and shooting of Rudy Tomjanovich on the way to making the playoffs for the first time since moving to Houston with a record of 41-41. In the playoffs the Rockets would prove they are for real as they stun the New York Knicks in a three game series. However in the second round the Rockets would be overwhelmed by the Boston Celtics in five games.
1975/76: After finally starting to get fans attention and selling out the Hofheinz Pavilion the Rockets move into a new arena called the Summit. After losing their first three games on the road the Rockets inaugurated the Summit in style by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 104-89 on November 2nd. However, the Rockets would fall short of a return to the playoff as they finished in third place with a mediocre record of 40-42.
1976/77: At the insistence of new Coach Tom Nisslake the Rockets acquire former ABA star Moses Malone from the Buffalo Braves in an early season trade for draft picks on October 24th. The trade would make the Rockets a serious contender as Moses averaged 13.2 ppg and 13.1 rebounds per game including a league high 437 offensive rebounds as the Rockets lifted off to the top of the Central Division with a solid 49-33 record. After a first round bye the Rockets would fly past the Houston Rockets would blast past the Washington Bullets in 6 games, rallying to win three straight after falling behind two games to one. In the Eastern Conference Finals the Rockets would fall behind right away as they lost the first two games on the road to the Philadelphia 76ers. After winning Game 3 the Rockets would fall behind three games to one. Facing elimination the Rockets would pull out a dramatic 118-115 win to keep their hopes alive. However, in Game 6 at The Summit John Lucas is hit with a controversial charging call in the final seconds as the Rockets season ends with a 112-109 loss.
1977/78: Coming off their trip to the Eastern Conference Finals the Rockets would get off to a slow start as they lost 12 of their first 18 games. However by December 9th the Rockets appeared to have righted their course as they won three of four games heading into a match up with the Lakers in Los Angeles. The season for the Rockets would turn that night as a fight broke out between Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rockets big man Kevin Kunnert. During the fight Rudy Tomjanovich would run to even the fight after Kermit Washington joined the scrum. However Washington saw Tomjanovich coming and threw a devastating punch to a defenseless Tomjanovich shattering his face and breaking his jaw. Had the punch been any harder Rudy Tomjanovich would have died. An unapologetic Kermit Washington would receive a NBA record suspension of 25 games. However, Rudy T would not play again that season as the Rockets struggled without their leading scorer finishing in last place with a 28-54 record.
1978/79: Moses Malone comes of age averaging 24.8 ppg while capturing a league high 17.6 rebounds a game to capture the NBA MVP as the Rockets rebound off a last place season to finish in second place with a solid 47-35 record that saw them finish just one game behind the Central Division Champion San Antonio Spurs. Also coming back was Rudy Tomjanovich who averaged 19.0 ppg in 74 games after his deviating facial injuries. However in the playoff the Rockets would falter as they lost 2 straight to the Atlanta Hawks.
1979/80: Moses Malone continued to dominate the middle averaging 25.8 ppg while averaging 14.5 rebounds. However the Rockets would play mediocre basketball all season posting a record of 41-41. Despite their less the stellar record the Rockets would make it into the playoffs where they beat their instate rival San Antonio Spurs in a three game series. However, in the second round the Rockets would be overmatched by the Boston Celtics who swept them in four straight games.
1980/81: With a 3rd Texas team joining the NBA as an expansion team the Rockets are moved into the Western Conference’s Midwestern Division. In the West Moses Malone continued to lead the way for the Rockets finishing second in the league in scoring with 27.8 ppg and first in rebounding with 14.8 rpg. However, the Rockets would play mediocre basketball all season as the barley sneaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed with a mediocre record of 40-42. In the playoffs the Rockets would draw the defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers after winning Game 1 on the road the Rockets appeared to have let the possibility of an upset slip through their fingers as they lost Game 2 at home 111-106. However, the Rockets would turn up the defensive pressure in Game 3 as they stunned the Lakers 89-86 to move on to the second round. In the second round the Rockets continued to be road warriors as they beat the San Antonio Spurs in a hard fought seven game series winning three of four games played in San Antonio to reach the Western Conference Finals. In the Western Finals the Rockets would split the first two games on the road against the Kansas City Kings before winning two straight games at The Summit to grab a 3-1 series lead. In Game 5 the Rockets defense turned up the pressure again as the Rockets advanced to the NBA Finals with a 97-88 win. Facing the Boston Celtics who had swept them in the playoffs a year earlier the Rockets actually had surprised most experts by splitting the first four games. However, the Celtics talent would take over to win the NBA Championship in six games.
1981/82: Coming off a trip to the NBA Finals Moses Malone has his finest season averaging 31.1 ppg and 14.7 rpg on the way to another MVP award as the Rockets finished in third place with a record of 46-36, finishing just two games out of first place. However, their would be no playoff charge this time around as the Rockets were beaten by the Seattle Supersonics in a three game series. Following the season Moses Malone would sign an unprecedented $13.2 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Though the Rockets matched the offer they could not afford to pay that amount so Moses Malone was traded to the 76ers for Caldwell Jones and a first-round draft choice.
1982/83: While Moses Malone was winning his second straight MVP and leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a NBA Championship the Rockets plummet to earth crashing into last place with a franchise worst record of 14-68 just two years after they had made it to the NBA Finals.
1983/84: With the top overall pick in the NBA Draft the Rockets would select 7’4″ Center Ralph Sampson from University of Virginia. Sampson would have an immediate impact averaging 22.1 ppg and 10.4 rpg on the way to capturing the Rookie of the Year award as the Rockets doubled their win total finishing in last place with a 29-53 record.
1984/85: For the second straight season the Rockets would use the top overall pick on a 7-foot Center this time selecting Hakeem Olajuwon, who was part of the fraternity “Phi Slamma Jamma” that had led the University of Houston to three straight Final Four Appearances. Olajuwon then known as Akeem, had a solid rookie season as he and both Ralph Sampson were dubbed the Twin Towers, while each averaged more then 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, as Olajuwon finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting to Michael Jordan, as the Rockets made it back into the playoffs with a 48-34 record. However, in the playoffs the young Rockets would sputter losing a five game series to the Utah Jazz.
1985/86: Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson continued to tower of the Western Conference as they led the Rockets to the Division title with a solid record of 51-31. Despite Guard John Lucas being suspended for the playoffs for failing a drug test the Rockets hit their stride in the playoffs sweeping the Sacramento Kings in three straight games. After splitting the first four games against the Denver Nuggets the Rockets blast their way on to the Western Conference Finals in six games for a match up with Los Angeles Lakers. With the Boston Celtics dominating in the East everyone anticipated a third straight NBA Finals match up between the Lakers and Celtics. However, the Rockets would spoil the rematch by stunning the Lakers in five games, winning the fifth game on an awkward turnaround jumper by Ralph Sampson at the buzzer in Los Angeles. After being blown out by the Celtics in the first two games on the road the Rockets pulled out a nail bitter 106-104. to keep their Championship hopes alive. However, the Celtics would take a 3-1 series lead with a three point win in Game 4. After staving off elimination at home in Game 5, the Rockets are blown out 114-97 in Game 6 as the Boston Celtics completed a record breaking season in which they lost just one game at home on the way to their 16th Championship.
1986/87: After making it to the NBA Finals the Rockets self destructed as their three guards John Lucas, Lewis Lloyd, and Mitchell Wiggins were suspended for substance abuse problems. With Ralph Sampson being limited to just 43 games Hakeem Olajuwon becomes the leader of the team averaging 23.4 ppg as the Rockets finished in third place with a mediocre 42-40 record. In the playoffs the Rockets would blast past the Portland Trail Blazers in four games before being knocked off by the Seattle Supersonics in six games.
1987/88: Hakeem Olajuwon would become the lone force in the middle of the Rockets as Ralph Sampson is traded early in the season along with Steve Harris to the Golden State Warriors for Eric “Sleepy” Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll after troubles with Coach Bill Fitch boiled over. Fitch had stated the trade would make the Rockets a better team then the one that went to the Finals two years earlier. The Rockets would go on to finish with a 46-36 record before crashing in the first round of the playoffs in four games against the Dallas Mavericks, as Coach Bill Fitch is fired and replaced by Don Chaney following the season.
1988/89: The Rockets continued to retool as they traded Joe Barry Carroll and Lester Connerto the New Jersey Nets for Tim McCormick and Frank Johnson. In addition they would deal Rodney McCray and Jim Petersen to the Sacramento Kings for Otis Thorpe. The Thorpe trade would pay dividends right away as he averaged 16.7ppg as the Rockets finished in second place with a 45-37 record. However, the Rockets would fail in the playoffs again as they are beaten by the Seattle Supersonics in four games.
1989/90: The Rockets would sputter at the start of the season posting 12-18 records as they entered the New Year. However, the New Year would be a new start for the Rockets who battled their way back to .500 to make it into the playoffs as the eighth seed with a 41-41 record. However, in the playoffs it would be another quick exit as the Rockets are beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers in four games.
1990/91: Despite losing Hakeem Olajuwon for 25 games due to injury the Rockets show marked improvement finishing in third place with a solid 52-30 record, as Kenny Smith provided a spark averaging 17.7 ppg. However despite a fully healthy team the Rockets would fail in the playoffs again as they are swept in three straight games by the Los Angeles Lakers.
1991/92: The Rockets would get off to a fast start winning eight of their first 10 games. However, the Rockets would start to struggle and by February 21st were hovering at .500 with a 27-27 record when Coach Don Chaney is fired and replaced by Rudy Tomjanovich. Under Rudy T the Rockets seemed revitalized as they won 11 of their first 15 games. However, down the stretch the Rockets struggled losing ten of their last 15 including three straight games to close the season with a disappointing 42-40 record that saw them miss the playoff by one game, as dispute between Hakeem Olajuwon and Rockets management seemed to distract the entire team.
1992/93: The Rockets start the season with two straight losses facing the Seattle Supersonics in Japan. On the flight home the Rockets would finally resolve their problems with Hakeem Olajuwon. Now refocused and without distraction the Rockets were able to lift themselves to a division title with a solid 55-27 record, as Olajuwon had a career season with 26.1 ppg, as he won Defensive player of the Year honors with an incredible 4.17 blocks per game. In the playoffs the Rockets were pushed to the limit in the first round as they needed an 84-80 win at The Summit in Game 5 to knock off the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite winning the Midwest Division the Rockets would not have home court advantage in the second round as they faced the Seattle Supersonics, because under the NBA playoff format home court is awarded to the team with the better record in the second round something the Sonics achieved by a head-to-head tiebreaker. It would end up being key as the home team won all seven games with Rockets hopes ending with a 123-110 overtime loss in Game 7 at Seattle.
1993/94: The Rockets lifted off into the stratosphere right away winning their first 15 games to set a NBA record for wins to start the season. After climbing to 22-1 the Rockets would naturally come back to earth a little bit as they finished in first place with a terrific 58-24 record, as Hakeem Olajuwon won the Defensive Player of the Year with 11.9 rebounds per game, while also claiming the MVP with 27.3 ppg. In the playoffs the Rockets would quickly fly past the Portland Trail Blazers in four games. However, in the second round it appeared as if the Rockets were heading for disappointment again as they lost the first 2 games at home to the Phoenix Suns, blowing a 20-point lead in the 4th quarter of Game 2 after seeing an 18-point lead melt away in Game 1. After Rockets and Oilers playoff disappointments some one cracked that Houston was “Choke City.” In Game 3 the Rockets appeared to be heading for a four game exit as they trailed at halftime by nine points. However, Vernon Maxwell led the way with 31-second half points as the Rockets came roaring back to win 118-102. The Rockets would go on to grab Game 4 to even the series and Game 5 at home to take control. After losing Game 6 in Phoenix, Houston churned the choke moniker into clutch moniker by beating the Suns 104-94 to advance to the Western Finals. In the Western Finals the Rockets made the most of their new-found life by dominating the Utah Jazz in five games. In the NBA Finals the Rockets were matched up against the New York Knicks as Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing met in a battle of premier centers. After splitting two physical battles in Houston the Rockets took a Game 3 as Sam Cassell hit a clutch three pointer in the final minutes. After losing the next two games, the Rockets faced elimination with Game 6 at The Summit. Trailing most of Game 6 the Rockets rallied to win Game 6 and force a decisive seventh game as a potential Game winning three point shot by John Starks was blocked by Olajuwon at the buzzer to win 86-84. In Game 7 the Rockets controlled from the start holding off every Knicks rally as Hakeem Olajuwon scored 25 points en route to winning NBA Finals MVP honors as the Rockets captured the NBA Championship with a 90-84 win turning Houston form “Choke City” to ‘Clutch City.”
1994/95: After winning the NBA Title the Rockets again blasted off at the start of the season winning their first nine games. However with increased competition in the West, management felt a change was needed to win the title again so they traded Otis Thorpe, who had been such a valuable inside force to the Portland Trailblazers for former “Phil Slamma Jamma” star Clyde Drexler. However, the trade appeared to have backfired on the Rockets as they play mediocre basketball in the second half posting a 17-18 record after the trade on the way to finishing in third place with a 47-35 record. Making matters worse injuries to Carl Herrera, forced him to miss most of the season’s second half, including the playoffs, and a frustrated Vernon Maxwell leaving the team due to lack of playing time left the Rockets without 2 key players heading into the postseason. In the playoffs the Rockets faced elimination right away, as they needed to win Game 4 at home just to set up a decisive fifth game on the road against the Utah Jazz. In Game 5 it appeared as if the Rockets Championship reign had run it course as they trailed by 12 points in the 3rd Quarter. However, behind 33 points from Hakeem Olajuwon the Rockets would advance with a 95-91 win. Facing he Phoenix Suns in the 2nd Round the Rockets appeared doomed again as they fell behind three games to one. However, the Rockets were not ready to give up as they won Game 5 in overtime on the clutch shooting of Robert Horry. After a solid 116-103 win in Game 6 at The Summit the Rockets overcame a ten point deficit to bet the Suns 113-110 in Phoenix on a Game winning three point shot by Mario Ellie with 7.1 seconds left. After again rallying past the Phoenix Suns the Rockets, Championship dreams were alive and well as they faced the San Antonio Spurs in an all Texas Western Conference Finals. The Rockets continued their momentum by taking the first two games on the road. However, upon arriving back in Houston the Rockets would struggle as the Spurs won both games at The Summit to even the series at two games apiece. However, back in San Antonio for Game 5 the Rockets took control back by winning 111-90 as Hakeem Olajuwon scored 42 points. Olajuwon would again rise to the occasion by scoring 39 points and pulling down 17 rebounds as the Rockets made it back to the NBA Finals with a 100-95 win. In the NBA Finals the Rockets were again underdogs as they faced the Orlando Magic. In Game 1 in Orlando the Rockets rallied to force overtime on Kenny Smiths clutch three point shot, after Magic star Nick Anderson missed two free throws that would have iced the game. With the score tied at 118 late on overtime Hakeem Olajuwon tipped in a Clyde Drexler miss to deliver the Rockets a victory in Game 1. The Rockets would grab a 2-0 series lead as Olajuwon and Sam Cassell each topped 30 points in Game 2. As the series shifted to Houston the Magic crumbled as the Rockets completed the sweep with two impressive wins to capture their 2nd straight NBA Championship as Hakeem Olajuwon won his second straight Finals MVP award.
1995/96: After two straight NBA Championship the Rockets got new colors, uniforms, and a new logo which was actually unveiled aboard the Space Shuttle. Injuries would be an issue all year for the Rockets who finished in 3rd place again with a 48-34 record. In the playoffs the Rockets appeared ready for another run as they blasted past the Los Angels Lakers in four games. However, in the second round the Rockets would run out of fuel as they were swept by the Seattle Supersonics in four straight games.
1996/97: After failing to win a third straight Championship the Rockets took a big step towards returning to the top by acquiring Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns for Sam Cassell, Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant and Robert Horry. Together with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler the Rockets now had three of the 50 Greatest players on their team as they got off to a solid 6-0 start, on the way to finishing in second place with a solid record of 57-25. In the playoffs the Rockets blasted off right away as they swept the Minnesota Timberwolves in three straight games. In the second round the Rockets jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the Seattle Supersonics, but had to hold on to win in seven games 96-91. In the Western Finals the Rockets found their backs to the wall right away as they dropped the first two games on the road to the Utah Jazz. However, upon arriving back at The Summit the Rockets rallied winning Game 3 by eight points and tying the series in Game 4 on a dramatic a Game winning shot by Eddie Johnson at the buzzer. After losing Game 5 in Utah 96-91, the Rockets needed another clutch performance at home to force a seventh game. However, with the game 100-100 in the final second Jazz guard John Stockton would nail a three point shot at the buzzer to end the Rockets Championship hopes.
1997/98: The Rockets began to show their age and the wear and tear of long playoff runs as they played mediocre basketball all season on the way to finishing in 4th place with a 41-41 record. Despite being the eighth seed in the playoffs the Rockets still had to be considered a legitimate playoff threat as they jumped out a 2-1 series lead over the Utah Jazz. However, the Jazz would recover to blow the Rockets out in the final two games to take the series in five games. Following the season Clyde Drexler would retire to take over the head-coaching job at the University of Houston.
1998/99: To replace the retiring Clyde Drexler the Rockets would acquire Scottie Pippen from the Chicago Bulls, as the season was delayed by a four month lockout. Pippen would play solid basketball scoring 14.5 ppg as the Rockets finished in third place with a 31-19 record. However in the playoffs the Rockets would make a quick exit as they are beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. Despite the solid season the Rockets would trade Pippen to the Portland Trailblazers for Walt Williams, Stacey Augmon, Kelvin Cato, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers and Brian Shaw.
1999/00: Already announcing it would be his final season Charles Barkley suffered a knee injury in December. In addition the Rockets would lose Hakeem Olajuwon to a variety of injuries for half the season as they missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years with a record of 34-48. However, not all was lost as Rookie Steve Francis who was acquired from the Vancouver Grizzlies in a three team deal after refusing to play for the team that draft him split Rookie of the Year honors with Elton Brand of the Chicago Bulls with 18.0 ppg. In the final game of the season Charles Barkley would return not wanting to have his career ended by being carried off the court.
2000/01: Steve Francis continues to emerge as the new star of the Rockets averaging 19.9 ppg as Hakeem Olajuwon continues to fade posting just 11.9 ppg while playing in 58 games as the Rockets miss the playoffs for the second straight season despite a respectable record of 45-37. After the season the Rockets would make a hard decision by dealing Hakeem Olajuwon to the Toronto Raptors in a sign and trade deal.
2001/02: With injuries limiting Steve Francis to 57 games the Rockets plummet finishing in fourth place with a 28-54 record. Finishing with such a poor record enabled the Rockets to have just enough lottery chances to get the number one overall pick which they used on Chinese sensation Yao Ming.
2002/03: Yao Ming the 7’5″ Center for China became an instant sensation as he made started in the Al-Star Game as the Rockets challenged for the playoffs all season. However, with Coach Rudy Tomjanovich missing most of the final six weeks after cancer surgery the Rockets and Yao Ming would hit a wall. Yao would still manage to put up 13.5 ppg, but he would finish second to Amare Stoudemire in Rookie of the Year voting as the Rockets finished one game behind Stoudimire’s Phoenix Suns for he final playoff spot with a 43-39 record. Despite falling short of a return to the playoffs the future could not be any brighter for the Rockets with Steve Francis and Yao Ming forming the foundation of a team that enters a new state of the art arena next season. Following the season Rudy Tomjanovich, would step down as coach, after his battle with cancer left him exhausted.
2003/04: The Rockets started the season with new launching pad and new uniforms as they returned to their traditional red color scheme complete with a space aged logo. The Rockets led by new Coach Jeff Van Gundy would start the season by wining their first game at the Toyota Center against the Denver Nuggets 102-85. The new home seemed to reenergize the Rockets who won five of their first six games. With Yao Ming leading the way with 17.5 ppg and nine rebounds per game the Rockets would blast their way into the playoffs for the first time in five years finishing in fifth place with a 45-37 record. However, in the playoffs the inexperienced Rockets would struggle against the playoff tested Los Angeles Lakers losing in five games as the match up between Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal ended up being a mismatch as Yao struggled in his first playoff series. Following the season the Rockets would complete one of the biggest blockbuster trades in NBA history trading Steve Francis along with Cutttino Mobley and Kevin Cato to the Orlando Magic for two time NBA leading scorer Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, and Reece Gaines.
2004/05: Hoping their new acquisitions would help Yao Ming the Rockets sputtered at the start posting a 6-10 record in November, as Yao struggled early. The Rockets would get back to .500 by the end of December and by the time the New Year started they were becoming the force many predicted as Tracy McGrady averaged 25.7 ppg. Down the stretch the Rockets would get stronger as the climbed up to third Place in the tough Southwest Division finishing with a solid 51-31 record, and earning a first round playoff showdown with the Dallas Mavericks. In the playoffs the Rockets started off fast taking the first two games in Dallas. However, in Game 3 at home the Rockets blew a 4th Quarter lead allowing the Mavericks a 20-0 run as they lost 106-102. The Rockets would also lose Game 4 at home and Game 5 on the road and would face elimination in Game 6, where Tracy McGrady put up 37 points as the Rockets won 101-83. However, in Game 7 the Rockets barely put up any effort losing by 40 points as they fell in the first round for the second year in a row.
2005/06: With a revamped roster that included Stromile Swift acquired via free agency and Rafer Alston acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors the Rockets hoped they could blast past the first round in the playoffs. However, injuries would interfere with the team all season, as a nagging back limited Tracy McGrady to 47 games while a foot infection forced Yao Ming to miss 25 games. The McGrady injuries clearly hurt the Rockets more as they posted a horrible 7-28 record in the games he missed, many of which came in November when the Rockets failed to launch in the first month of the season with a terrible 3-11 record through their first 14 games. When McGrady and Ming were both playing in December the Rockets won five games in a row, but when Yao Ming left to take care of an infected toe the Rockets fizzled again as they ended the month on a five game losing streak, that continued into January when they won just five of 16 games. With both their top stars in the line up in February the Rockets again flourished as they posted a 14-4 record over a 18-game stretch, but T-Mac’s back acted up again and the Rockets would be unable to lift themselves out of last place as they ended the season with a disappointing record of 34-48.
2006/07: With the hopes of getting back into the playoffs the Rockets acquired Shane Battier in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, while signing Bonzi Wells. While the trade helped make the Rockets deeper and more balanced, their two key players Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady continued to deal with injuries as a sore back hampered Tracy McGrady early in the season, while Yao Ming who was off to the best start of his career before suffering a fractured fibula. The injury to Ming came just as the Superstar from China was heating up with six straight 30-point games. Fortunately for the Rockets when Yao Ming went down on December 22nd, McGrady was getting over his injury, and they were able to stay in strong playoff position while their center missed 32 games. When Yao Ming returned on March 6th the Rockets were comfortably in playoff position, as they went on to finish with a record of 52-30 earning home court in the first round of the playoffs. Facing the Utah Jazz the Rockets would get off to a fast start in the playoffs winning their first two games at home easily. However, as the series shifted to Utah the Jazz clawed their way back into the series holding the Rockets to 67 points in Game 3 as they won 81-67. After the Jazz evened the series with a 98-85 win in Game 4 the Rockets hoped a return to Houston would give them the lift they needed. With Tracy McGrady scoring 26 points with a playoff career high 16 assists, the Rockets were able to rally to retake the series lead with a 96-92 victory. However, once again they were stymied in Utah as the Jazz sent the series to a decisive seventh game with a 94-82 victory in Game 6. With Game 7 in the Toyota Center, the Rockets fully expected to launch their way into the second round, as the series’ first six games were all won by the home team. However, a big game from Carlos Boozer would shot down the Rockets hopes as the Jazz stunned the Rockets 103-99, handing the Rockets their first ever Game 7 loss at home. Following the game the disappointed Rockets would fire Coach Jeff Van Gundy.
2007/08: With new Coach Rick Adelman, and the reacquisition of Steve Francis, there were high hopes in Houston when the season began. Another player the Rockets added to their arsenal was Luis Scola, a star player from the Argentine National Team. In the early going the Rockets looked good as they won six of their first seven games. However, a strained elbow from Tracy McGrady triggered a losing streak as the Rockets lost six in a row, and ended 2007 with a losing record of 15-16. In the Western Conference that was bad news, as several teams had jumped out to good starts, and making the playoffs would take a strong effort after the New Year. They began to play better in January, climbing back over .500. When the month ended the Rockets were starting to get on a real roll, winning fiver of their last six. The win to close the month on January 29th, would be the start of something big, as the Rockets flew through the month of February without losing a game. However, there was bad news on February 26th when All-Star Center Yao Ming suffered a season ending foot injury. Despite the loss of Yao, the Rockets continued their winning ways into March, winning an additional ten games in a row to give themselves a 22-game winning streak that was the second longest in NBA history. After dropping three of four games after the streak the Rockets closed the season strong posting a solid 55-27 record , which was the third best in the Western Conference. However, due to eight teams winning 50 or more games, the Rockets were once again the fourth seed, and matched up against the Utah Jazz. The Rockets sputtered in Game 1, losing at home 93-82. They would also lost Game 2 at the Toyota Center, and faced going to Utah, where their postseason fell apart in 2007, desperately needing a win in Game 3. Trailing entering the fourth quarter the Rocket relied on their role players to keep their hopes alive long enough for Tracy McGrady to take the game over, as the Rockets star ended his fourth quarter slump, by scoring seven points in the final 3:29 to lead the Rockets to a 94-92 win. The reprieve would only be short lived as the Jazz handed the Rockets an 86-82 loss in Game 4, putting them on the brink of elimination. The Rockets would hold their home court with a 95-69 win in Game 5. However, it was not enough as they were eliminated in six games losing the finale 113-91, despite a 40-game from Tracy McGrady, who still had to deal with the talk of him not reaching the second round in his illustrious career
2008/09: With the addition of Ron Artest, the Rockets entered the season with an improved defense. Early on it paid off as the Rockets won 13 of their first 20 games. The Rockets would play strong basketball all season, as they again battled the San Antonio Spurs all season for first place in the Southwest Division. However, midway through the season the Rockets path to the Western Conference elite seemed to be in Jeopardy, as Tracy McGrady has season ending surgery on his left knee on February 18th. Fortunately for the Rockets, Yao Ming who had been hampered by injuries for the better part of three seasons was able to stay relatively healthy all season, missing just five games during the regular season. The Rockets would end the season as the fifth seed in the West, while missing out on the division title by just one game with a record of 53-29. In the playoffs the Rockets faced the young Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, and got an important win in Game 1 on the road, as Aaron Brooks led the way with 27 points as the Rockets won 108-81. After losing a close game in Game 2 the Rockets defense led the way as they won the next two games at home to take a commanding three games to one series lead. After an 88-77 loss in Game 5 the Rockets lifted off into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 12 years as Ron Artest scored a game high 27 points as the Rockets earned a 92-76 win in Game 6. However, in beating the Blazers the Rockets lost a valuable defense piece to their puzzle when Dikembe Mutombo injured his knee, and retired from the NBA. In the second round against the Los Angeles Lakers the Rockets again landed a big blow in the opener winning Game 1 on the road 100-92, as Yao Ming led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds. However, the Lakers would battle back to win the next two games, as Yao Ming suffered a foot injury that knocked him out of the remainder of the playoffs. Despite the loss of Yao Ming the Rockets would even the series with a 99-87 win in Game 4, as Aaron Brooks emerged as the Rockets new leader with 34 points. After a blowout loss in Game 5, Brooks again led the way with 26 points as the Rockets pushed the Lakers to a seventh game with a 95-80 win in Game 6. However, the Lakers proved to be too strong as the eliminated the Rockets in seven games 89-70 on the way to winning the NBA Title.
2009/10: The foot injury that knocked Yao Ming out of the playoffs would require surgery that would force him to sit out an entire season. The Rockets would sign Trevor Ariza from the Los Angeles Lakers using an injury exemption to fit him under the cap. In addition the health of Tracy McGrady continued to be a factor as the season began for the Rockets. Despite the injuries troubles the Rockets played well early in the season, holding a 20-13 record at the start of the New Year. One reason behind the Rockets solid play as Aaron Brooks who continued to emerge as the Rockets go to player, averaging 19.6 ppg as he would go on to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. As January arrived the Rockets began to sputter, posting a 5-7 record. As their struggles continued into February the Rockets became active at the trade deadline, acquiring Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, Hilton Armstrong, and Jared Jeffries in a three team deal that sent Tracy McGrady to the New York Knicks, and Joey Dorsey and Carl Landry to the Sacramento Kings. Martin would play well in Houston, but the Rockets would fall short of reaching the playoffs as they posted a 42-40 record and finished in third place in the competitive Southwest Division.
2010/11: After a season of injury and frustration, the Rockets hoped to rebound and hoped Yao Ming could return and be their force in the middle. Even as Yao was set to comeback, the Rockets took measures just in case he was unable to get back to full strength as they signed Brad Miller. The Rockets also landed Courtney Lake in a four team five player deal that saw the Rockets send Trevor Ariza to the New Orleans Hornets. The Rockets started the season on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers, losing 112-110 as the Lakers ended the game on a 15-4 run, as Yao Ming returned and logged more than 20 minutes before fouling out. After a loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets faced the Denver Nuggets in their home opener, losing again despite a strong game from Luis Scola, as they dropped their first five games. Things got even worse as Yao Ming was injured again after just five games with a stress fracture in the ankle. This injury, which was initially thought to be just a mild sprain, would end up being the end of the road for Yao Ming who at 30 decided to retire following the season. After losing Ming, the Rockets won a game, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-94 to end their losing streak. The Rockets would continue to struggle after beating the Wolves as they ended November with a 5-12 record. The Rockets would turn things around in December, winning 11 of 15 games to enter the New Year at .500 with a record of 16-16. However, 2011 began the same as the season began with five straight losses, as they dropped seven of eight on the way to posting a 6-11 record. The Rockets would head into the All-Star Break with a record of 26-31. At the trade deadline they would be one of the busiest teams, sending Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies for Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick. They also traded Aaron Brooks to the Phoenix Suns for Goran Dragic and a first round pick. Thabeet, the second player chosen in the 2009 draft would play just two games with the Rockets before being sent to the D-League to develop his game. After the break, the Rockets would win 12 of 15 games to get back over .500 and into the playoff race. However, it would not be enough as they missed the playoffs for a second straight season, falling three games short with a record of 43-39, as Coach Rick Adelman was replaced by Kevin McHale.
2011/12: With the official retirement of Yao Ming, it was time for the Rockets to turn the page and focus on the future with new Coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets looked to begin the rebuilding process on draft day as they selected Marcus Morris and Nikola Mirotic in the first round, while trading Brad Miller, Mirotic, Chandler Parsons and a future 1st round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jonny Flynn, Donatas Motiejunas and a future 2nd round draft pick. The Rockets would later send cash to reacquire Parsons, their second round pick. One player who would get away was Jeremy Lin, who was claimed of waivers by the New York Knicks just before the start of the season, which was delayed by a two month lockout. Lin would become an overnight sensation, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated in two consecutive weeks. The Rockets would fizzle at the start of the season, losing six of their first eight games, they would quickly turn things around as they embarked on a seven game winning streak and were right in the thick of the playoff race for the rest of the season. With the hopes of getting a veteran for the final stretch, the Rockets sent Jordan Hill to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher, and a future first round draft pick but just as quickly released Fisher when he refused to report to Houston. Despite the Fisher fiasco the Rockets remained in the playoff chase and appeared to be in position to at least grab the eighth seed as they held a record of 32-25 on April 8th. However, the Rockets would suffer a six game losing streak, as they won just two of their last nine games, as they fell short of the playoffs again despite finishing with a winning record at 34-32. Following the season, the Rockets would not pass up a second chance for Linsanity as they signed Jeremy Lin to a three year $25 million deal that the Knicks were unable to match.
2012/13: After a busy off-season, the Rockets continued to build the team right up to the start of the season, as the acquired James Harden along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb and two future first-round picks. The move would pay off right away as Harden scored a game high 37 points with 12 assists as the Rockets beat the Detroit Pistons 105-96 to open the season four days later. Harden would do even better in the Rockets second game, scoring 45 as they beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-102. Harden who was the sixth man in OKC, would become the Rockets leading man with a career high 25.9 ppg. However, the Rockets would suffer a letdown in their home opener, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers 95-85. November would be a tough month for the Rockets as they posted a 6-8 record, while Coach Kevin McHale spent most of the month at the bedside of his 23 year daughter Alexandra “Sasha” McHale who died two days after Thanksgiving, losing a battle with lupus. McHale would return in December, and the Rockets fortunes improved, as they won seven of ten at home to go into the New Year above .500 at 17-14. However, over the next two month the Rockets played mediocre basketball as they remained on the playoff bubble. Looking for a boost the Rockets were active at the trade deadline, picking up Thomas Robinson, Francisco García, and Tyler Honeycutt in a trade with the Sacramento Kings that sent Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, and Cole Aldrich the other way. The Rockets also dealt Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a 2nd round draft pick, while bringing back Aaron Brooks who had been waived by the Kings. The moves would help the Rockets to their best month of the season at 9-5 during March, as they landed into the playoffs for the first time in four years with a record of 45-37.
2013 Playoffs: In the playoffs the eighth seeded Rockets would face the Oklahoma City Thunder, as James Harden looked to make his former team pay. However, in Game 1 the Rockets were clearly overmatched losing 120-91. The Rockets would play a much closer game in Game 2, but the result was the same as the Thunder held off a late charge by the Rockets for a 105-102 win. As the series shifted to Houston, the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook for the remainder of the postseason after suffering a knee injury in Game 2. However, the Rockets were unable to take advantage losing 104-101. The Rockets would finally break trough in Game 4, winning the game 105-103 behind a 27 point effort from Chuck Parsons. The Rockets would also win Game 5 on the road, 107-100 as James Harden had his best effort of the postseason with 31 points. With a chance to get the series to a seventh game, the Rockets comeback would fall just short as Kevin Durant carried the Thunder to a 103-94 win in Game 6. Following the season, the Rockets would continue to improve signing All-Star Center Dwight Howard away from the Los Angeles Lakers, who was the most sought after Free Agent in the off-season.
2013/14: Expectations were high in Houston, after the Rockets signed Dwight Howard in the off-season. Howard would grab 26 rebounds in his Houston debut as the Rockets beat the Charlotte Bobcats 96-83 at the Toyota Center. The Rockets would soar early, getting off to a 13-5 start, as Dwight Howard in the middle helped James Harden and Chandler Parsons get more open shots. James Harden would be a first team All-Star with 26.8 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Benefiting most from Howard’s presence was Chandler Parsons, who had the best season of his career with career highs in points (16.6 ppg), rebound (5.6 rpg) and assists (4.0 apg). While Dwight Howard himself was among the NBA’s top rebounders with 12.2 boards per game along with 18.3 points per game. However, if Dwight Howard had a flaw it was his troubles at the foul line, shooting .547 from the charity stripe. Dwight Howard’s troubles at the free throw line, would lead teams to hack a Howard, forcing the Rockets to take him off court in key moments during the game. December would be the roughest month for the Rockets as they split 16 games, and entered the New Year with a record of 21-13. The Rockets would surge into 2014, winning eight of their first ten games in January. The Rockets would be similarly strong in February and March, as they seized the fourth spot in the Western Conference Playoffs with a record of 54-28.
2014 Playoffs: In the postseason the Rockets would face the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. The Blazers finished with a similar 54-28 record, but the Rockets got home court by winning three of four regular season meetings. The Rockets looked to be on the way to a win in Game 1, as they held an 11 point lead with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. However, with the team struggling at the free throw line, the Rockets could not close out the game as LaMarcus Aldridge forced overtime with a three pointer at the buzzer. The Rockets would score the first six points in OT, but again sputtered as the Blazers went on an 8-0 run, and would win the game 122-120 as Aldridge scored 46 points with 18 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge would score 43 points in Game 2 as the Blazers won 112-105 to take a 2-0 series lead to Portland. Facing desperation, the Rockets again saw a late lead slip away as Nicholas Batum forced overtime with a three pointer with 41 seconds left. However, with Troy Daniels coming off the bench and hitting a big three point bomb the Rockets kept their hopes alive with a 121-116 win. Game 4 would also go to overtime, as Dwight Howard tied the game with a power dunk with three seconds left. This time the Trail Blazers would get the game powered by a 9-2 run in overtime, to win by a score of 123-120. Back in Houston for Game 5, the Rockets would put up their best game of the series, limiting LaMarcus Aldridge to eight points, winning the game 108-98. With James Harden scoring 34 points and Chandler Parsons put back with 0.9 seconds left the Rockets appeared to be heading for a seventh game up 98-96. However, Damian Lillard was able to get off a three point prayer to end the series and end the Rockets season with a 99-98 win for the Trail Blazers.
2014/15: After a heartbreaking first round exit, the Houston Rockets blasted off at the start of the season, winning their first six games, and nine of their first ten games. A big reason for the Rockets early success was the play of James Harden who continued to develop into one of the best shooters in the game. Not satisfied with their good start, the Rockets added veteran depth in December, trading for Corey Brewer and Josh Smith. Both moves had a positive impact on the Rockets as Brewer averaged 11.9 points per game in 56 games, while Smith had 12 points per game in 55 games with the Rockets. As the Rockets went into the New Year with a record of 22-9 James Harden continued to rank among the leaders in scoring, raising his career best efforts several times during the season, scoring 40 or more points on ten occasions. James Harden would finish the season second in MVP voting, averaging career highs with 27.4 points per game, assists with 7.0 per game and rebounds with 5.7 per game. In a very competitive Western Conference, the Rockets would be among four teams battling right down to the end of the season for the second overall seed. Despite losing a home and home with the San Antonio Spurs in the final week of the regular season the Rockets managed to grab that second seed, winning their final three games to beat out the Spurs by one game with a record of 56-26. Besides Harden, the Rockets got a big year from Dwight Howard who averaged a double-double, with 15.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Donatas Motiej?nas had a breakout season for the Rockets, averaging 12.0 points and 5.9 boards per game.
2015 Playoffs: In the postseasons the Rockets would face the Dallas Mavericks in an all Texas battle. The Rockets would claim the opener by a score of 118-108, as James Harden led the way with 24 points and 11 assists. In Game 2 it was Dwight Howard leading the way with a game high 28 points and 12 boards as the Rockets took a 2-0 series lead with a 111-99 win. As the series shifted north to Dallas, the Rockets continued to keep control, winning 130-128 with James Harden scoring 42 and Dwight Howard dominating the glass with 28 rebounds. The Mavericks would win Game 4 by a score of 121-109 to avoid a sweep. Back in Houston for Game 5, the Rockets would reach the second round for the first time in six years, winning 103-94 as Harden again starred with 28 points, while Howard had 19 rebounds. Things would not be as easy in the second round as the Rockets dropped the opener against the Los Angeles Clippers at Toyota Center 117-101. The Rockets would rebound to win Game 2, with Harden scoring 32 points 115-109. However, the Clippers continued to lead the way, winning the next two games in Los Angeles to take a 3-1 series lead. The Rockets would keep hope alive, with a 124-103 win in Game 5. At the Staples Center in Game 6 it appeared as if time was going to run out on the Rockets, as the Clippers were in full control late in the third quarter up 87-68. However, the Rockets began fighting back score the final nine points in the third, to cut the deficit to 13 points. The charge continued into the fourth quarter as they blasted past the Clippers with 40 points to turn a 19-point deficit into 119-107 win, highlighted by a 23-2 run in the fourth. Leading the way in the Rockets comeback was Corey Brewer who scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, with Josh Smith adding 14 points in the decisive final 12 minutes. Meanwhile Dwight Howard was a beast on the boards, scoring 20 points with 21 rebounds. The series would go to a seventh game in Houston where James Harden took over scoring a game high 31 points, to lead the Rockets to a 113-100 win to complete the comeback from a 3-1 deficit. The Rockets in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1997 would face the Golden State Warriors. Just like the MVP race saw Stephen Curry beat out James Harden, Game 1 would see Curry beat out Harden in Game 1 leading the Warriors to a 110-106 win. Harden would answer back in Game 2 scoring a game high 38 points, but with the game on the line he was trapped on the end line unable to get off a shot, with the Warriors holding on to a 99-98 win. Things did not get better in Game 3 in Houston as the Warriors won 115-80. Avoiding a sweep would see James Harden set a new career playoff high with 45 points as the Rockets won 128-115. In Game 5 Harden, would set a record of dubious distinction committing 12 turnovers as the Warriors won 104-90 on the way to winning a NBA Championship.
2015/16: After reaching the Western Conference Finals the Houston Rockets looked to take it another step further. However, early on the Rockets sputtered posting a record of 4-7 in their first 11 games, when management decided a change was needed and fired Coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets would be led by J.B. Bickerstaff for the remainder of the season. The Rockets would respond to the coaching change by outlasting the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime 108-103, as James Harden scored 45 points, while Dwight Howard pounded the boards with 19 rebounds. However, the same problems they had under McHale continue to persist as the Rockets lost their next three games, and ended November with a record of 7-11. The Rockets would play better in December, and briefly peeked over .500, but ended the month losing four of five, and began January at 16-18. The Rockets would spend the entire season going up and down the .500 mark, as they ended the year with a record of 41-41. Despite their prolonged mediocrity the Rockets slipped into the playoffs as the eight seed in the Western Conference. Once again James Harden ranked among the top scorers in the NBA, as he finished second to Stephen Curry with a career best 29.0 points per game. Harden also posted career highs with 7.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game. However, not all stats were great for James Harden as he tied a NBA single season record with 366 turnovers. Meanwhile it was a disappointing season for Dwight Howard, who had the lowest scoring output since his rookie season with 13.7 ppg.
2016 NBA Playoffs: The Houston Rockets had the odds stacked high against them as they faced the Golden State Warriors coming off a record breaking 73-9 season. In the playoff opener, the Rockets were never in the game, losing 104-78. Despite playing without Stephen Curry in Game 2, the Warriors again had no problem beating the Rockets 115-104. As the series shifted to Houston, the Rockets got a big effort from James Harden who had a game high 35 points, including the game winning shot with 2.7 seconds left to win 97-96. Curry returned and was re-injured in Game 4, but the Rockets again were blown off the floor, losing 121-94. The Warriors would go on to win the series in five games, beating the Rockets 114-81 in the finale.
2016/17: Looking for a boost, the Houston Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni an offensive minded coach to get the most of their lineups and help take the Rockets to the next level. James Harden, who signed a four-year deal worth $118.1 million benefited most from the change as he was off to the best start in his career. After posting an 11-7 record over the first two months, the Rockets really things going in December, with a ten-game winning streak. The Rockets ended 2016 with a record of 26-9 and were among the top teams in the Western Conference. Harden, continued to lead the way after the New Year, as he set a franchise record for most triple-doubles in a season with 22. If not for the season that Russell Westbrook was having, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, James Harden likely would have been the odds-on favorite to win the NBA MVP as he nearly averaged a triple-double himself on a Rockets team that was overall better, than Westbrook’s Oklahoma Thunder. With career highs across the board, James Harden averaged 29.1 points, and a league-leading 11.2 assists per game, only falling short of the triple-double average for the season with 8.1 rebounds per game. The Rockets would go on to finish the season with the third-best record in the West at 55-27. Mike D’Antonti would be named Coach of the Year for the Rockets big season, while Eric Gordon was named the NBA’s Sixth Man, with 16.2 points per game off the bench.
2017 Playoffs: The marquee matchup of the NBA Playoffs first round was the Houston Rockets led by James Harden against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the opener, it was Harden who had the big night, with a game-high 37 points as the Rockets pulled away late to win 118-87 at the Toyota Center. Westbrook had a great individual night in Game 2, scoring 51 points while posting a triple-double. However, the Rockets were the better team in the fourth quarter and won 115-111 as James Harden scored 35 points. As the series shifted to Oklahoma City, James Harden had a big Game 3, scoring 44 points but it was not enough as the Thunder survived a Rockets fourth-quarter comeback attempt to win 115-113. Russell Westbrook was magical in Game 4, scoring 35 points with 14 rebounds and 14 assists. However, the Rockets got the win 113-109 as Nene led the way with 28 points and ten rebounds. Westbrook had another big game in Houston for Game 5, but the Rockets once again made the big plays when it counted, recording a 105-99 win to advance to the next round. The second round would be the battle of Texas, as the Houston Rockets took on the San Antonio Spurs. The opener at AT&T Center was all Houston, as the Rockets won 126-99, with three players (Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, and James Harden) scoring over 20 points. The Spurs bounced back with a 121-96 win in Game 2. In Game 3 at the Toyota Center James Harden’s 43 points were not enough as the Spurs took control of the series with a 103-92 win. The Rockets battled back to even the series with a 125-104 win, as Harden had 28 points and 12 assists. Game 5 in San Antonio would turn into the game of the series, as James Harden had a triple-double with 33 points, ten rebounds, and 11 assists. However, in overtime, a three-point attempt was blocked by Manu Ginobili as the Spurs won 110-107. The Spurs would go on to win the series in six games, crushing the Rockets 114-75 in the finale in Houston.
©MMXVIII Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Basketball Association. This site is not affiliated with the Houston Rockets of the NBA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on May 5, 2003. Last updated on May 11, 2018 at 11:50 pm ET.