2016 couldn't have ended better for the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets. Raptors' head coach Dwane Casey won the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award for the month of December while Rockets' head coach Mike D'Antoni took home the award for the Western Conference. This is the third time Casey has won the Coach of the Month in his career, while D'Antoni has won it five times in his career.
The Raptors finished December with a 10-4 record and currently sit second in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto's offense has consistently efficient throughout the season as they sit second in the NBA in offensive rating with 113.1 and tied for third in the league in points per game with 110.3. Also, Toronto averaged a conference-best with 112.1 points per game during December.
Casey, who is known for being a defensive-minded coach, seems to have turned his focus on the offensive side of things. Although, he still prioritize defense no matter what. Going back to their efficient offense, the Raptors set a franchise record for their largest margin of victory with 44 while hosting the Atlanta Hawks earlier in the month.
The Raptors are currently led by DeMar DeRozan who is averaging 27.5 points, which is a career-high, five rebounds per game, and four assists per game. Kyle Lowry, who also is the heart and soul of the Raptors, is averaging 22.2 points per game, including a season-best 41 points against the Los Angeles Lakers back on Jan. 1. He is also finding his teammate as he averages 7.1 assists per game.
Casey and his Raptors have to stay focused on the task athand as they were clobbered by the San Antonio Spurs last night, losing 110-82. What is impressive about the Raptors is that their blowout loss to the Spurs was the second time this season where they lost by double-digits. The Raptors are 1-1 in the month of January with 15 games left to play.
The Houston Rockets are no different from the Toronto Raptors on the offensive end of the floor. The Rockets offensive rating is 112.3, best for third in the league and they light up the scoreboard as they second in the league in points per game with 114.6. Their three-point shooting, on the other hand, is a different story. Houston made an NBA-record 24 three-pointers in a 122-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans back on Dec. 16. On top of that, the Rockets attempted the most three's in a game with a mind-boggling 61-shot attempts from deep.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni, who is an offensive mastermind, made the switch to have James Harden run the point guard position and they haven't looked back. Harden closed 2016 on an unbelievable triple-double performance against the New York Knicks recording a stat line of 53 points on 14-of-26 shooting, 16 rebounds, 17 assists. In doing so, Harden became the first player in NBA history to record 50-15-15 in a game. In his last game hosting the Washington Wizards, Harden recorded back-to-back triple-doubles and become the first Rockets player to record at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals since 1973-74 when steals were first recorded. Harden also won the Player of the Month award for the month of December for his stellar play.
The Rockets currently sit third in the Western Conference with a 27-9 record and have 16 games left for the month of January.