How the Rockets fared against potential first-round teams this year

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

With the playoffs approaching, the bottom of the Western Conference is still a mess.

The Houston Rockets have been clinched in the No. 1 seed in the West for a while now. Things aren’t so smooth at the bottom of the West, though, as many teams are still looking to clinch a playoff spot.

That makes it tough for the Rockets to scout out their first-round opponent because nobody knows who it will be. There are 5 teams that can potentially drop or jump up to that No. 8 seed.

In this post, we’ll be looking at how the Rockets fared against these 5 teams and how they may matchup in the playoffs.

Let’s begin with possibly the most likely opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Minnesota Timberwolves

For the Rockets, the Timberwolves are probably the team they would like to face the most. They thoroughly handled the Wolves during the regular season, winning the series 4-0.

Houston also didn’t just win the season series, they dominated it. They won the first three games against Minnesota by 18 points and the last one by 9. They showed that they are flat-out better than the T-Wolves.

Playoff Jimmy Butler would be tough to handle, but the Rockets have the players on both ends of the court to take down the Timberwolves in the first round.

Denver Nuggets

This is another team the Rockets would probably like to see in that No. 8 spot. The Nuggets were swept in the season series 3-0 this year and were also, for the most part, dominated by the Rockets.

Houston won the first game by 30 and the second by 26. The last game between the two was competitive, though, with the Rockets winning it by 5.

There are a couple of reasons the Rockets might want Minnesota rather than Denver. For most of the year, All-Star big man Paul Millsap has been out for the Nuggets. His presence will be much different come playoff time. Also, the altitude in Denver would make the 2 or 3 possible games there be difficult.

Overall, the Nuggets are a tough team, but the Rockets would be able to handle them. The next three teams could be a handful, though, in no particular order.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have given the Rockets a little bit of trouble this season, at least relatively speaking. Houston still won the season series 3-1 over them, but they were mostly all competitive games.

New Orleans seems to play harder than they normally do against Houston. They shoot lights out from 3 and that’s why all games but the last were within 7 points.

Anthony Davis, an MVP candidate this season, is a huge reason why the Pelicans stayed afloat after losing DeMarcus Cousins. He’d be matched up with Clint Capela and that would be a show of young talent. Besides Davis, the Pelies also have a great point guard in Jrue Holiday. Chris Paul would have to play some great defense on Jrue for the Rockets to make it an easier series.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs last season, as I’m sure you remember. Some payback would certainly be nice against them, but it’ll be no easy task. Yes, they’ll be shorthanded with probably no Kawhi Leonard. However, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the Spurs have been extremely well-coached by Gregg Popovich.

The Rockets should be able to take care of them easily, but you never know with the Spurs. That’s why they’re in the tougher category of opponents. Houston still won 3 of 4 against them, though.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have been wildly inconsistent this season. They can go from beating the Warriors and Rockets to losing to Nets and Knicks. You never know who you’re going to play, and that’s what’s a little scary about them.

They have three ball-dominant players that can beat you if you let them. Carmelo Anthony isn’t the same player as he has been in the past, but he still can burn you. Paul George is a defensive beast and is having a solid season in OKC. And of course, Russell Westbrook can take over a game with his athleticism.

The Thunder still have been pretty bad on offense, though. For the Rockets to win a series against them, they need to be sharp and alert, ready to play. That didn’t happen last game, but for good reason. The Rockets lost 2 of 3 against the Thunder in the regular season.

Who would you want to play in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below.

Next: James Harden and Chris Paul should rest for the last two games