James Harden Thornton Houston Rockets
James Harden and the Houston Rockets will need to be at their best to stop the San Antonio SpursReuters

Just how much Houston Rockets have improved from their early season troubles will be known when they host the in-tune San Antonio Spurs on NBA Christmas Day.

Houston have only just got over .500, with a spin of wins, but the team is still yet to convince they can go farther, if not more, than they did last season, when they went down to the eventual champions Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Following reports of Dwight Howard being unhappy with his role in the team, and then the entire roster not quite feeling their best, Houston, who have continued to get plenty of points from James Harden, have gone on a decent run, a run which will be severely tested by the Spurs, who have been one of the best sides in the NBA this regular season.

Much of Houston's success for the rest of the season will depend on squad harmony, which Howard believes is quite fine, in spite of reports on the contrary.

"It's like they always say, if you ain't hear it from the horse's mouth, then it ain't true," Howard told ESPN.

"Here's the horse's mouth. Of course, as a team we've been unhappy in the past with how we played and as individuals and our record and stuff like that and that's rightfully so.

"Why wouldn't we want that? We expect better from ourselves, the city expects the best from us. We raised the bar and we've set the bar so high, so of course we are going to be unhappy with the way we've performed.

"But that's why we're out here working, trying to get better every day and that's what our focus is. So if anybody tells you different about anything else, they're just lying. It's just noise."

Houston's interim coach JB Bickerstaff said the reports of team unrest have in fact helped the squad to band together and put in a few impressive performance, with the defence, in particular, improving.

"I think it [the momentum] started in LA, and we talked about it was a matter of us playing well," Bickerstaff said. "I keep saying that over and over again. It's been so long we played well, I think our defence has been the key to what we've been doing these last three games.

"We've been tremendous on the defensive end of the floor and it's everybody."

Everybody will need to be at their best again if they are to stop San Antonio, with Kawhi Leonard, in particular, in roaring form. Leonard was named the NBA Player of the Week for his sparkling performances, and the Houston defence's number one job will be to keep the Spurs main man quiet.

Where to Watch Live

NBA Christmas Day Game 4 is scheduled for an 8 pm ET (6.30 am IST, 1 am GMT) start. Live coverage of the NBA match between Houstin and San Antonio in India will be on Sony Six and Sony Six HD. San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets can also be watched via live streaming online on Sony Liv.

Audience in the US can watch the NBA Christmas Day game live on ESPN, while the action can also be live streamed on Watch ESPNBT Sport will provide live coverage of the match for viewers in the UK, while the live stream option is on Watch BT Sport.

Audience from around the world can also watch the Christmas Day action live on NBA online.

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