1. The West
To give you an idea of how competitive Houston’s conference is, the top 10 Western Conference teams have a combined record of 194-109 while the East’s top 10 are 152-146 (107-132 excluding Miami and Indiana.)
The Rockets play 56 games against teams in their conference, and are 12-9 so far. They haven’t had the toughest schedule, as many of those wins were over teams they should beat: New Orleans, Utah, Denver, Minnesota, Dallas and Memphis.
Dec 26, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots over Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
The better teams are the ones they have trouble beating—the teams they will see in the playoffs: Portland, Phoenix and Los Angeles Clippers.
Almost all of those 56 games will be tough battles, as Houston has already lost to teams like Sacramento, Utah and New Orleans.
While Memphis and New Orleans are nothing to sneeze at, especially when fully healthy, the Southwest division has three playoff teams: San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.
The Rockets will face these four teams a total of 16 times. So far they’re impressively 6-2, but have only four more home games against one of the toughest divisions in the league.
Teams like San Antonio have been conserving their stars’ minutes, but the Rockets have no intention in resting their youngsters. James Harden averages the second most minutes in the league at 38.8 and Chandler Parsons isn’t far behind at seventh with 37.7 minutes per game.
The Rockets can afford to run their opponents out of the gym each game with an average age of 25, and usually do: they average the second highest points per game in the league with 106.3.
But don’t think young players are immune to fatigue. Or injuries.
Harden has missed six games, Patrick Beverley seven and Jeremy Lin 10. Omer Asik has already missed 15 games this season for an injury that may or may not be real.
Which brings us to the next roadblock.