With 34 games left to go, the Houston Rockets, at 25-23, are currently in 8th place in the west. While the Rockets are just 1/2 game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers, they are only 5 and a half games behind the 4th place Memphis Grizzlies. If the playoffs started today, the Rockets would have a first round match-up with the San Antonio Spurs, a team that Houston has yet to beat this year.
In fact, of the top 3 teams currently in the West, the Rockets have yet to beat any one of them, going 0-3 against the Spurs so far, 0-2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 0-1 against the Los Angeles Clippers so far. While Houston plays both the Spurs and Thunder one more time this season, and the Clippers twice, it seems that the Rockets would match up best against the Spurs at this point. In the three losses, the Rockets have averaged a remarkable 111 points a game, but have given up 123 points a game to the Spurs. It seems like the Rockets also execute their offense best against San Antonio, shooting 39 percent, 42 percent, and 52 percent, respectively, in the three games. Also, with their aging Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, team health could be in favor of the Rockets come playoff time.
The Thunder might be the worst matchup, with Houston getting blown out both times earlier in the season, a 120-98 loss on November 28th, and a 124-94 loss on December 29th. The Rockets defense never found an answer for the Thunder attack in both games, allowing OKC to shoot 54 percent and 48 percent in each game. Houston also committed a season high 24 turnovers in the December 29th game.
The Clippers might be the wild card in this equation, as one game isn’t quite a sample size to judge off of. The Rockets lost 117-109 on January 15th, a game in which the Clippers did not have Chris Paul, while Houston was in the middle of a seven game losing streak. The Clippers shot a remarkable 58 percent from the three point line, and the Rockets killed themselves, shooting just 14 of 25 from the free throw line, and suffered a long drought in the 3rd quarter that led to a 25-6 Clipper run.
The Rockets have two more games against the Clippers, so those upcoming performances will be very telling of how Houston really matches up with them. It was still a positive sign though that, in the middle of the Rockets’ slide, they were still able to hang in close with Los Angeles, even without Chris Paul.
Most likely, the Rockets will finish no higher than the 6th seed in the west, so it’s almost guaranteed that they will play one of these three teams in the first round of the playoffs.