The 2015-2016 Houston Rockets will be a puzzle to basketball students five, 10, 20, 50, and 100 years from now.
The team that’s not even worth figuring out is a team whose season has transcended the need for editorial commentary at this point. Merely laying out some of the twists and turns in the path over five months — from Game 1 on October 28 through Game 75 on March 29 — suffices to capture the extent to which the Rockets cannot be boxed in or categorized.
What makes the Rockets’ journey that much more of a brain-buster is that ever since their about-face against the Los Angeles Clippers last May in the 2015 playoffs, a coaching change has done absolutely nothing to change who and what they are in terms of tendencies and overall personality. Under Kevin McHale and now J.B. Bickerstaff, this is the same team — for better and worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.
Let’s recap with simple facts and no commentary:
The 2015-2016 Houston Rockets:
* Lost at home to Denver in their October season opener.
* Defeated Oklahoma City five nights later.
* Won at the Clippers and lost at home to Brooklyn in consecutive games.
* Erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit on Bickerstaff’s first night as head coach to beat Portland at home.
* Lost at home to the Knicks three nights later.
* Lost at Brooklyn on Dec. 8 to lose the season series to the Nets, 2-0.
* Won at Washington the next night.
* Lost to Denver for the third time in the season on Dec. 14.
* Beat the Clippers again on Dec. 19.
* Beat the Spurs on Christmas Night.
* Lost at New Orleans on Dec. 26.
* Went 9-3 from Jan. 4-25, with no bad losses (defined as losses to teams with losing records).
* On Feb. 6 and 10, lost twice to Portland by an average of 15 points, the margin by which the Rockets trailed after three quarters in their November comeback win over the Trail Blazers.
* Trailed Portland by 21 on the road, only to come back and win by 14 on Feb. 25.
* Gave up 128 points in a loss at Milwaukee.
* Won at Toronto on March 6, snapping the Raptors’ 12-game home winning streak.
* Won at Boston on March 11, 102-98, snapping the Celtics’ 14-game home winning streak and their nine-game streak of scoring at least 100 points.
* Allowed 125 in a 16-point loss at Charlotte one night later.
* Lost 3 of 4 games from March 16-22, surrendering at least 109 points in all four games.
* Lost at home to Utah, 89-87.
* Swept the season series from Toronto on March 25, winning by a 112-109 score.
* Lost at Indiana, 104-101.
* Trailed by 20 at Cleveland only to come back and win on the Cavaliers’ home floor.
What will happen the rest of the way, especially in a huge April 6 game at Dallas against the Mavericks, a fellow playoff contender?
Try not to make any predictions. Daring to insist that certain events will unfold within the course of a given game for the Houston Rockets is as safe an exercise as trying to predict the next bizarre and viral moment in the American presidential campaign.
Five months and 75 games… and no certain identity — that’s the non-story story of the 2015-2016 Houston Rockets, the enemy of cranial regions everywhere.