With the crazy NBA schedule (just ask LeBron), teams have to pace themselves, and they have to temper expectations relative to what is happening with travel and opponent. Just ask the Rockets. In an interview with Rockets.com, Daryl Morey talks about how he was't worried about the Rockets' rough start, because the schedule was downright brutal. (The Rockets started the season with five of eight on the road, all against playoff teams except for the Clippers, who, you know, are a little different than last year.)
At the same time, Morey says the Rockets have to take advantage of a lull in the next two weeks in order to compensate for it.
JCF: So what are you looking for over the next two weeks?via ROCKETS: Q&A with Daryl Morey, January 24, 2012.
DM: I think we’re looking at hoping to win a lot of games because I think our schedule is still something where we’ll need to win a lot if we want to make the playoffs.
JCF: So it’s about building a cushion for when the schedule inevitably gets harder again?
DM: Yeah, we can’t take our eye off the ball right now because it’s going to get bumpy again real soon here. We’ve got to win a lot of these upcoming games to stay on a playoff pace.
The Rockets have a four-game homestand this week and five of their next six are at home. They face an inconsistent Milwaukee team Wednesday night, then the train wreck that is the Wizards, the teetering Knicks, and a Wolves team they ran away from in Minnesota. Then a road game against nearby San Antonio, who they are 2-0 against the season, a home game against Phoenix, and another roadie against the Wolves. Then, Morey's right. Things get tough again. The Rockets have another six-game road trip counting the game against Minnesota, featuring three playoff teams, a coastal road trip that has banged up quite a few teams this season.
Leveraging against the schedule may be the best approach. Don't get caught up in matchups and focus on spurts of winning streaks in the easy parts and then trying to survive the rough stretch. Just as Morey wanted the team or its fans to get too low at the start of the year (something I fell victim to; what can I say, they looked terrible), he has to warn against getting too high now that they are rolling. It's all about balance and coming out ahead of expectations.