Rockets 108, Hornets 96 - Pyrrhic Victory

The Houston Rockets rolled over another team, this time the underperforming Charlotte Hornets. In what was a pretty standard romp for a team which has made romping the standard, the biggest story was an unfortunate injury. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute injured his shoulder during a dunk, casting a pall over Houston's 11th win in a row and raising questions about the Rockets' outlook for the near future..

The biggest notable in the actual win was Chris Paul's Performance, in which he scored 30 to go with his 11 assists and 7 rebounds. On a night like this, when James Harden's line is merely great (21 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists), having Chris Paul around makes all the difference. Paul helped lead the Rockets to a 20-point lead early in the game, which the Hornets were never able to recover from. Chris Paul is still a transcendent basketball talent and against about 24 out of 29 other teams in the NBA, he upgrades an already great Rockets team to nearly unbeatable.

The bad news, however, is that Mbah a Moute injured his shoulder, and it sounds like he might miss some time. Head coach Mike D'antoni stated that he will have an MRI on the shoulder tomorrow. D'antoni supposed that it had been dislocated briefly, but apart from this unconfirmed report, there's nothing known about his injury. This is, needless to say, bad news for the Houston Rockets.

Mbah a Moute has proven himself to not only be a foundational piece on defense, but also a capable offensive cog as well, both from the three point line and off the dribble drive. While most of the attention on Houston's improvement has focused on Chris Paul, and for good reason, Mbah a Moute is an integral part of that improvement. He and PJ Tucker have shown themselves to be integral to this team's success, and without him there will be a glaring hole in the 9-man rotation.

It's likely that if this absence is not overly long, it won't make a large difference against much of the league. Apart from the top few teams, the Rockets have little to fear and can likely bowl over most teams anyway. One major worry would be whether or not a currently benched player is promoted into the lineup or whether the lineup simply shortens to seven players, which could have fatigue consequences in the long term. Additionally, the Rockets play a couple of those top-6 teams quite soon (The San Antonio Spurs on Friday and the Boston Celtics on December 28th) and face the sometimes-threatening Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas day. Any of all of those games could be losses anyway, and the absence of Mbah a Moute only raises those chances.

The race for the top seed in the west is very real right now, and the Rockets are firmly in the driver's seat at the moment. However, a few losses could drop them behind the Warriors, who similarly just don't lose games. If Mbah a Moute's injury recovery stretches into January, he could even miss one or both of Houston's two remaining games against them. Those will be the hardest-fought and most important games of the season for the Rockets, and this could be truly bad timing.

We don't know what the prognosis is, however, and it is meaningless to speculate until the MRI results come in tomorrow. It's uncontroversial but stands to be said anyway: injuries are bad, and we should all pull for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to get healthy as soon as possible, both to help the team and because being hurt is awful. The Rockets have won a lot of games in a row. Unfortunately, that isn't the big story tonight.

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