After a horrible start to the season, it’s entirely possible that the Houston Rockets can head into the playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference.
The Houston Rockets have had a roller-coaster of a season, to say the least. In a year that has seen them have records of 1-5 and 11-14 at two points, to be the No. 3 seed in the West right now with a 41-25 record is something truly extraordinary.
Thanks to the constant MVP-caliber play by James Harden, the Rockets kept afloat while dealing with many injuries to pretty much every key player on the team. It’s a tough competition between the Beard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but bringing Houston all the way back to a top spot might seal the deal for Harden.
After being as low as No. 14 in the Western Conference, the Rockets have fought back and are now in a spot where they can realistically get the top spot. How is that even possible? Let’s look at some scenarios for the rest of the year.
Playoff standings scenarios
The top priority as far as standings go for the Rockets should be to avoid the Golden State Warriors as long as possible. Setting up a rematch of last year’s Conference Finals this season would be an ideal situation.
Houston is in that position right now if the playoffs started today. They are in the No. 3 spot and would play in the other side of the West bracket as the Warriors, who are No. 1.
But what if the Rockets finish No. 1? It’s not as unrealistic as it sounds.
After the win and Warriors loss last night, the Rockets are just 4 games back of Golden State for the top spot. If Houston can take care of business tonight against the Hornets, they’d be just 3.5 back. That would set up a matchup on Wednesday against the Warriors, who have lost every game against the Rockets so far this season.
With Golden State coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Suns, they will likely have a bit of extra motivation. It won’t be easy, but they may also possibly be without Kevin Durant due to injury. With a win, the Rockets would be just 2.5 back of the Warriors heading into the final stretch of the season.
Houston would have to play nearly perfect the rest of the year for this to happen. Despite the recent struggles by GS, they still have a fairly weak closing schedule and normally get it turned around near the end of the year. The Rockets would have to pounce on every opportunity the Warriors give them.
How crazy would it be if Houston ended up in that No. 1 spot with home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs? They still have to pass a tough Denver team, too.