Thanksgiving is all about traditions. Thursday is for football and eating more food than any other day of the year. Not many people think of the day before Thanksgiving having traditions but in the case of the Houston Rockets they have played enough Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving (WBT) games in their history for it to count as a tradition. Let’s take a look back at how they’ve fared.
This year, the Houston Rockets (13-4) will play on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for the 38th time in team history when they welcome the Denver Nuggets (9-7) to town.
I know, I know, other NBA teams play on Wednesday but those teams playing on Thanksgiving Eve don’t count as much as the Houston Rockets. At least to me.
This will be my 28th thanksgiving. For the first 26 there was one thing I looked forward to more than the turkey and dressing, the Wednesday night (sometimes Tuesday night) Houston Rockets game with my grandpa, Pap.
We didn’t go to the games, my older brother ruined that before it could begin, but we would sit and watch the games together. At halftime my brother and I would help him make the fruit salad.
Two years ago we watched our final WBT Rockets game. They lost to Memphis Grizzlies 96-84 that night. Pap is still alive, about to turn 87 in December but he moved to Louisiana a few years back. We still exchange texts during the WBT games but it is not the same.
This post is partly for Pap but also partly because I am a proponent of telling the history of sports, especially in Houston where the history is rich but not well known.
A Thanksgiving Tradition? The Rockets?
As I said at the beginning of this post, the Rockets will play their 38th game all-time on the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving. I always thought the Rockets did pretty good in the games played the day before Thanksgiving but after doing the research (shout out to Google Calendar for finding the right day for Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Basketball-Reference for the results from those days). I found, surprise, the team has a 16-21 record overall in their previous Wednesday night games. When Tuesday games are added (there have been 10 of those) the Rockets record improves to 22-24 overall.
The Rockets have played a total of 16 different teams on Thanksgiving Eve. This Wednesday, Denver will be the 17th team Houston plays on Thanksgiving Eve. The most common opponents have been Boston (five times), Philadelphia (four times) and Golden State (four times). Houston has also played Indiana, Utah and Phoenix three times apiece.
No place like home for the Rockets on Thanksgiving Eve
The Rockets are 9-7 at home on Thanksgiving and 6-13 on the road. There has been one neutral site game and that came in 1968 when the San Diego Rockets played the Baltimore Bullets in Detroit.
Since the lockout in 2011, the Rockets are 2-3 on Thanksgiving eve. In the 2010s they are 3-3. It is the first decade they have won three games on Thanksgiving Eve since the 1980s when they were 3-4. In the 2000s, Houston was 1-6 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and in the 1990s the Rockets were 2-3 on Wednesday but 3-0 on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The best decade for Rockets on Thanksgiving Eve was the 1970s when they went 6-3.
So far some trends have stood out. The Rockets have never beaten the Celtics in five meetings on Thanksgiving Eve. Houston is 3-1 in overtime and the last two times the Rockets played OT on the Wednesday before turkey day they went on to win the Western Conference in 1985-86 and 1993-94.
Everyone remembers how that 1994 season ended.
So this Thanksgiving Eve, count your blessings that they aren’t playing Boston and hope that the Rockets win but that the game goes to overtime.