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James Harden.

How the Houston Rockets can dig their way out of a three-game slump

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After starting out the season on fire, the Houston Rockets have finally come back down to earth a bit in the past few days.

Following a 26-4 start to the 2017-18 campaign, James Harden and company have lost their last three games and have fallen a game behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings.

Losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder (on Christmas Day) have the Rockets in their worst slump of the season.

With a game in Boston against the talented Celtics coming up on Thursday, things may get worse for Houston before they get better.

However, that doesn't mean there are no easy fixes for coach Mike D'Antoni's squad moving forward. In fact, a few simple tweaks could help Houston regain its standing atop the West.

Here are three big ways the Rockets can get back to their winning ways in the near future:

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks

Get Clint Capela back at full strength

The Rockets' talented center missed the losses to the Lakers and Clippers with a heel injury, but returned to the lineup against OKC on Christmas Day and posted a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double in the loss.

As Capela gets back to full strength, the Rockets' defense will improve as well. Allowing 128 points to the Clippers and 122 to the Lakers is unacceptable, and it likely wouldn't have happened if Capela was healthy.

He's developed into an offensive threat as well, but Capela's biggest value to the Rockets will always be as a defensive stopper, and that's what Houston needs right now.

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns

Take pressure off James Harden

Harden scored 51 points against both the Lakers and Clippers, but the Rockets still lost. 

Granted, Harden has been without fellow superstar Chris Paul for losses to the Clippers and Thunder, but he's still being forced to do too much.

The Rockets play better when everyone is involved in the offense, so Harden needs another running mate to step up alongside Eric Gordon while CP3 is out of the lineup. That could be Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson or P.J. Tucker.

Houston Rockets v Charlotte Hornets

Develop more bench depth

Yes, the Rockets have been hampered by injuries lately, but they're still only playing eight guys a night recently.

One of their bench players is Eric Gordon, who routinely plays 30-plus minutes a night, but beyond that, the Rockets don't have much depth.

Again, some of those issues will work themselves out as the team gets healthier, but D'Antoni needs to find ways to get other guys involved in the meantime to avoid wearing out Harden and his other starters.

Topics:
Chris Paul
L.A. Clippers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
NBA
James Harden
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
NBA Playoffs

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