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Daily Rocket Science: Preparing for Playoffs

Jan 29, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets play their last regular season game tonight against the Timberwolves. Then, they’ll turn right around to play their first postseason game on Saturday.

As I’ve written on multiple occasions this month, the playoffs have a completely different vibe than the regular season. Games matter more, obviously, and everybody in the building is aware. The fans are louder during the playoffs, players don’t hold back in the playoffs, and it creates a new atmosphere for the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have their work cut out for them to prepare for the Thunder this weekend.

Not that they haven’t been preparing, though. James Harden has led the Rockets to 54 wins so far, three of which over the team they’ll play in the first round. He’s played like an MVP and his teammates have held up their end of the bargain. Today’s Daily Rocket Science will discuss what intangibles the Rockets are working on before the postseason tips off.

First up, mindset. According to NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury, Houston has an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition with their nothing to lose situation. They weren’t supposed to be good, so anything that happens will be an over-achievement. Without that weight on their shoulders, they’ll be able to beat their opponents at the thinking aspect of the game.

"So you look around for a group that will enter the playoffs with just the don’t-give-a-damn mix of aptitude and attitude and here are the Rockets, looser than a bucket of fishing worms. “We fear nobody,” said Rockets guard Patrick Beverley."

Next, tenacity and aggressiveness. Nobody on the team (and perhaps nobody in the league) has tenacity figured out as well as Patrick Beverley. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding interviewed Mr. 94 Feet on what gives him his competitive edge.

"“For me, trying to make NBA teams and having the door closed on me many, many times gave me the motivation to go out there and continue to prove people wrong,” Beverley said. “That’s where my motivation comes from.”"

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The last thing that we’ll discuss today is confidence. If the Rockets don’t go into the playoffs with a confidence that they’re the better team, it won’t go well for them. Fortunately, they have the rightful MVP on the roster to give them that boost. Matt Moore of CBS Sports voted James Harden for MVP and gave a solid argument why that’s the case.

"Harden did more than James or Leonard, and did what he did more efficiently than Westbrook. He led his team to more wins. He adapted more, made his teammates better, made his team better, even if they were better than Westbrook’s to begin with."

There’s no question that the Houston Rockets are the better team going into the first round battle. They boast a better record than the Thunder and have won the season series as well. However, like I said, the playoffs are a different beast.

Next: What Will D'Antoni's Playoff Rotations Look Like?

Tip-off time for the first playoff game hasn’t been announced yet, but stay tuned to Space City Scoop for more information as it becomes available. Go Rockets!

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