Houston Rockets In Classic Wild West Playoff Shootout
The NBA’s Western Conference is set to see five different teams with the potential of finishing in the second seed before the playoffs are set in stone. The common trend in the West has been around 50 regular season wins to get into the post season. This year has been no different.
With only six games remaining, the Rockets could end up finishing 2nd in the West. The crazy part is, in a worst case scenario the could fall to 6th. For some, this time in the season can be an opportunity to rest. Not for five teams in the West, they will have to play like there is no tomorrow.
The Wild Wild West:
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What does this mean For Houston?
The Rockets draw a very hungry Thunder team who are on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. They also are losers of two straight, so Houston who is without defensive minded Patrick Beverley can expect a fired up Russell Westbrook. The next two games that follow could be a glimpse of a 2015 potential playoff match-up. Harden and company play a home and away against the San Antonio Spurs, who are also the leagues defending champs.
Houston will likely want to avoid the Spurs in the opening round and hope to finish as close to the top as possible in the standings to have home court advantage in at least the first two series. Should they be successful in finishing second, as of today the Rockets would face Dallas.
All 5 teams could potentially be vying for second in the West. Houston and the Spurs both have six games remaining, but the Rockets currently own two more victories in the win column. This could end up being a monstrous advantage in Houston sealing the spot behind Golden State. In addition it could end up being the x-factor in where Houston’s finishes. But things wont get any easier as the Rockets draw the Pelicans after the home and away with the Spurs. The Pelicans are in a battle for the 8th and final spot in the West with OKC, so Houston can expect them to be playing with a sense of urgency themselves.
The last two games may carry some relief in terms of stiff competition, but are still very important. Next up is Michael Jordan’s Hornets. Depending on what occurs with Charlotte over the next few games they are either going to be fighting for the 8th spot or completely out of the picture. If Charlotte are mathematically eliminated they’ll likely not rush Al Jefferson back who is currently out injured. That would translate into a favorable match-up.
The last game of the year takes place on April 15th at the Toyota Center against the Utah Jazz, who are 15-22 on the road. This single game might be the one that can seal a second place finish. All this is speculation as their are no guarantees of anything over the next five games. One thing is for certain, the game at hand will have a direct impact on the final standings.
When examining this grouping of 5 teams over the last ten games, Houston (8-2), the Clippers(8-2) and Spurs (9-1) seem to be the hottest. The Clippers have a favorable schedule on paper. Meeting the Lakers twice, the Nuggets twice and the Phoenix Suns.
As of today Houston will be battling the Grizzlies for the number two spot, but all that can change over night. Finishing just below Golden state will mean the Rockets will likely draw the Dallas Mavericks who have struggled with consistency this year. It looks like possibly the best match-up for Houston in the first round. Dallas could move up, but it is going to be tough for them to slide into six. Not impossible, but not likely.
Houston and Dallas played four times over the course of the regular season. The Rockets controlled the season series 3-1. When Disco Dirk and the Mavs are your best case scenario, you aren’t going to have an easy first few rounds. In many seasons past, the top Teams in the East tend to sail until the conference finals. However, the landscape of the West looks much different than the East.
If the Rockets finish 3rd they will likely draw Portland, the Clippers or the Spurs. It can realistically be any of those teams. If Memphis starts losing games they could fall, but currently have two more wins than the other three teams listed above. If the Rockets finish third or lower, they will have a tougher opening round and also depending on where they finish, may not see any home court advantage.
Houston’s finish will also impact James Harden‘s chances at the MVP. The stronger the finish, the stronger the case. The team recently got back Terrence Jones from injury which is fantastic news. They now wait on Donatas Motiejunas who is nursing a bad back. Dwight Howard will be needed going forward, as Houston can only hope his health continues to progress in the right direction.
Houston is primed, ready, and confident. This regular season finish should see them aspire to finish 2nd in the West and draw the Mavs in the opening round. Harden’s leadership and ability to make those around him better has ignited this team into a legit contender. It will be all hands on deck in H-Town. The finish should go down as a patented and classic wild west shoot out.
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