Nylon Calculus: How long will the Houston Rockets’ win streak continue?

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 16: Chris Paul /

The Houston Rockets were losing 91-83 to the Utah Jazz with 9:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, their 13-game win streak on the line. What followed in those remaining few minutes was a monstrous 37-6 run by the Rockets to not just win the game, but blowout the Jazz.

The Rockets’ win streak now sits at 14 straight games. They have proven they have the firepower to win any game no matter how or who they are playing. They were no slouches in their first 15 games either, with an opponent adjusted net rating of +6.9 points per 100 possession. That net rating would translate to a 57.9 win team. During their win streak, the Rockets have had an astounding opponent adjusted net rating of +16.1 points per 100 possessions which translates to a 72.3 win team. It is not hard to see where the improvement has come from either.

That Chris Paul fellow might have a future in basketball. Paul only made one appearance for the Rockets during their first 15 games, a one-point win over the Golden State Warriors, leading to a very low Player Impact Plus-Minus during that time. Since then, he has performed at historically high levels and James Harden has thrived with such a talented teammate. Both of their PIPM scores during the win streak would rank in the top 10 since 2000-01.

The other factors lifting the Houston Rockets during their streak are the play of Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela. Capela has actually played slightly worse, but his amazing roll finishing and high level rim-protection pairs perfectly with two of the best pick-and-roll guards in the league. Ariza has been lights out during the streak, shooting 46.1 percent from 3 on 6.4 attempts per game. On top of that, he has stepped up as the team’s best wing defender in the absence of Luc Mbah a Moute.

Evaluating the streak

To evaluate the streak and project forward, I am using my in-season game projection model. The model is trained off historical game data, and accounts for rest, travel, team strength, and matchup. Since I began using the model to predict outcomes, I have been able to correctly identify the winner in about 71 percent of games.

My model has the has the Houston Rockets as the favorite in all but one of their remaining games this year. The only game I do not currently project them as the favorite is away against the Toronto Raptors on March 9. Even in that game, the Rockets still project to win it 47.8 percent of the time. As for the Rockets upcoming opponents, not much can slow them down.

The Rockets most trying upcoming test comes against the Boston Celtics on Dec. 28. The most interesting outcome possible would be if the Rockets win streak can survive until the Warriors game on Jan. 4, an outcome that my model gives a 10.4 percent chance of occurring. The Rockets would be trying to tie the franchise record at home against the one team they need to prove themselves against. To potentially make matters even more interesting, the Warriors are currently on their own nine-game win streak. My model estimates there is a 1.1 percent chance that both win streaks are still active on Jan. 4. Now that would truly be a game to watch.

Next: Nylon Calculus -- On rotations, rest and ramifications for the Timberwolves

Miraculously, the Rockets have a nearly 1 percent chance of tying the all-time longest win streak of 33 games, and just less than that to set a new record. The fact that the all-time win streak is even close to possible is a testament to how dangerous these Rockets are. The league better be ready because the Houston Rockets certainly are.