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MINNEAPOLIS - When Damian Lillard drilled the 3-pointer to beat Houston in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs last season, the Rockets left Portland knowing that they had to do one thing if they were going to become legitimate contenders in the powerful Western Conference. John Wensink Jersey .They had to become a better defensive team.Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff took on the task, and the changes he has implemented have been a smashing success early this season. The Rockets are second in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions, third in field-goal percentage defence and third in points allowed per game, helping them to a 16-4 record that is the second-best start in the league.Last year at the end of the playoffs, we sat down and went over a lot of stuff, coach Kevin McHale said. We just had to get better defensively. We had to get more disruptive. JB Bickerstaff has done a great job.Even more impressive is that the Rockets have been so successful while playing almost half of their games without their two best defensive players — Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley. Howard has only played 10 games and Beverley eight because of injuries, but new swingman Trevor Ariza and veteran Jason Terry have been instrumental in instilling a new focus and attention to detail on that side of the floor.Bickerstaff, one of the rising young assistants in the game, said he watched video of Howards dominant days in Orlando and consulted with other coaches including his father, Bernie, and Mike Brown, a respected defensive strategist, to come up with a plan to address the Rockets issues on defence.The last play in Portland was kind of a microcosm of our entire season, Bickerstaff said. There was miscommunication and it ended with a wide open look for Damian that cost us.The biggest thing is the guys have bought in and are committed on that end of the floor, he said. Now you hear guys in tight games saying, Were one of the best defensive teams in the league. Lets get a stop. This is what we do.The Rockets play at Golden State, at Sacramento and host Denver this week.Here are some other things to keep an eye on in the NBAARKERS 3s: Spurs PG Tony Parker is shooting 65 per cent from 3-point range this season and is averaging 1.4 attempts per game, which would be his highest since the 2004-05 season if he sustains it through the year. As I get older, Pop is less concerned about what Im doing so Im sneaking in some 3s sometimes, Parker joked.LEBRON VS. DURANT: The best game of the week could be on Thursday, when LeBron James and the streaking Cavaliers visit Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant and Russell Westbrook are finally healthy and playing, and every game counts for them after the Thunder lost 13 of their first 17 with them on the bench.MAVERICKS TOUGH WEEK: Every week is tough in the West, but Dallas definitely has its work cut out this week with a trip to Memphis on Tuesday, a home game against Anthony Davis and New Orleans on Wednesday and a visit from the conference-leading Golden State Warriors on Saturday.COUSINS HEALTH: DeMarcus Cousins impressive start has been derailed by a viral infection. Hes missed the last five games and it remains unclear when the big man will return to the Kings lineup.SURGING SIXERS? After going 0-17 and coming dangerously close to setting the record for worst start to a season, the Philadelphia 76ers have won two of their last three games, beating Detroit and Minnesota last week. They travel to Atlanta on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Friday before hosting Memphis on Saturday.___STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: The ageless wonder had 14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists on Dec. 6 at Memphis, helping the Spurs overcome the loss of Parker to beat the rugged Grizzlies, 107-101. It was the 38-year-old Duncans first triple-double in the regular season since Nov. 11, 2010 at Golden State. Semyon Varlamov Avalanche Jersey . Francis told several hundred members of the European Olympic Committees that when sport "is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost . Joe Sakic Jersey . The deal will pay Hainsey $3 million for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons and $2.5 million in 2016-17. http://www.hockeyavalancheproshop.com/tyson-jost-jersey/ . You can watch all the action on TSN and TSN GO beginning at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt. Minnesota dropped the first two tests of this best-of-seven set at Chicagos United Center and was outscored by a combined 9-3 margin in those setbacks. However, the Wild righted themselves at home by taking Game 3 by a 4-0 count before knotting the series at two games apiece with Fridays 4-2 triumph at Xcel Energy Center.Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - If the Jets had played this well all season, Rex Ryans job security would never have been an issue. Geno Smith threw for a career-high 358 yards with three touchdowns, including a 74-yard scoring strike to Eric Decker that ignited a run of 23 unanswered points, as New York concluded a dismal year with a 37-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium. Decker caught 10 passes for 221 yards for the Jets (4-12), who hadnt scored more than 25 points in a game all year and gave Ryan a victory in what could be his final game as New Yorks head coach after six seasons. Ryan compiled a record of 46-50 and is expected to soon learn his fate, although indications are that he, and possibly general manager John Idzik, will be fired. Ryan tookk the Jets to the AFC Championship Game after each of his first two seasons, but New York hasnt had a winning record since and this years finish was the worst for the franchise since a 4-12 mark in 2007. Carl Soderberg Avalanche Jersey. Miami coach Joe Philbin is set to return next year after owner Stephen Ross made the announcement following last Sundays victory over Minnesota. The Dolphins (8-8) finished Philbins third year with a second straight .500 campaign. Miami was 7-9 in Philbins first season and 8-8 last year, when a loss to the Jets on the final day of the season cost the Dolphins a playoff spot. The Dolphins were already eliminated from postseason contention after last weeks results and needed a win to finish above .500 for the first time since capturing the AFC East in 2008. 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