I did not expect that.
Not that the Rockets were very bad heading into the season, but lacking a superstar, it was unlikely that they could compete with the top teams in their own division.
However, the same compressed schedule that has wreaked havoc on them has done the same for many other teams in the league. Injuries have plagued lots of stars, including the Mavs with Dirk. Well, it could have been a conditioning issue. Or maybe not.
At any rate, the Southwest looks both wide open and still pretty tough. San Antonio hasn't looked nearly as old as people expected them to look given this schedule. A big thanks for that has to go to Pop, but it leaves them in good position to claim the division title for themselves. The Mavs have had problems and do not look like the same team without J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler.
Plus, Memphis has been frisky and sits a mere 2 1/2 games back. That's four out of the five teams in striking distance of the top, with only the sad-sack Hornets looking to be non-contenders. Can Houston stay at the top of this particular heap?
Well, they have enough young players to keep fresh legs through this long season. They've feasted on a cupcake schedule to get back into contention and will need to beat good teams in order to really have a shot. Still, they are doing surprisingly well and with a deep roster, they should hold up over the next 46 games.