Houston Rockets clinch playoff spot thanks to win last night

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets have clinched a spot in this year’s playoffs despite the terrible start to the season. Where can they end up in the final standings as the season draws to a close?

Last year at this time, the Houston Rockets were in a very comfortable position. They sat in the top spot in the Western Conference and, in fact, they were going to get win No. 60 exactly a year ago.

After an offseason that didn’t quite pan out the way the front office thought it could, the Rockets got off to a slow start. At one point, they sat at 11-14 and were the second-worst team in the conference to the Phoenix Suns. How could that be possible? How can a team go from the top seed all the way to Suns-level?

It left many people, including the author of this article that is making its way around Rockets Twitter by Complex Sports, question where the team would end up this year. Can they recover after such an atrocious start?

? The Houston Rockets won't be challenging the Warriors again this year. In fact, they will MISS THE PLAYOFFS ?

Here's why: https://t.co/xzpyuUzSkf pic.twitter.com/68WYqzfMLr

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) December 10, 2018

The missing the playoffs hot take was quite interesting. James Harden has personally never missed the postseason, despite being pretty close in that forgettable 2015-16 season. Let’s pretend that one didn’t happen, okay?

Thankfully, though, the Rockets clinched a playoff berth after a win against the Pelicans last night. They will at least get a shot at getting back to the form that saw them one win away from the Finals last season.

Seeding possibilities

The Rockets not only will make the playoffs, but they could get themselves a pretty high seed in the tough Western Conference. They currently sit in the No. 3 seed with a record of 47-27, three games back of the No. 2 seeded Denver Nuggets. See the related post below for why the Nuggets have a pretty tough schedule and why Houston may be able to catch up.

If the Rockets skid a bit to end the year, any seed is really possible at this point. The conference is so tight-knit right now that first and eighth are separated by just 7.5 games in the standings.

If the playoffs started today, Houston would host the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, as they did in 2017. That’s not a fantastic matchup to have, as OKC was a top-3 seed pretty much all season until recently. They’ve lost quite a bit in the last month, but are still a dangerous team that should be avoided.

The LA Clippers would probably be the optimal matchup, though the Rockets also have winning records against playoff teams San Antonio and Utah. Portland and OKC are teams that wouldn’t be very fun to play that early on in the postseason.

Next. Who can stop James Harden?

After that, a second-round matchup against the Nuggets would be ideal. Let’s hope the Warriors don’t choke away their top seed in the last couple of weeks in the season!