The Houston Rockets have gotten the better of the Denver Nuggets for the last few years. With how the standings are right now, could they be trying to avoid them in the playoffs?
The Houston Rockets have been clawing back from the bottom of the Western Conference since the terrible start to the season. The team is way different now and James Harden is once again an MVP candidate for it.
The ideal matchup for the team this year has always been to to get home court in the first round, then play the Denver Nuggets in the second round. Houston is an extremely tough matchup for how Denver plays, so that would be a perfect path to a Conference Finals rematch against Golden State.
The Nuggets would much rather play the banged up Portland Trail Blazers in the second round if they could choose and have the Rockets face off against the Warriors then. They may also be trying to manipulate that result just a bit as the season winds down.
Denver resting for a non-health reason?
It’s pretty obvious how good of a matchup the Nuggets are for the Rockets. They won 3 of 4 games this year, with the one loss coming without Clint Capela, the Nuggets killer himself. His versatility on both ends of the court causes Denver some serious issues, especially when Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee have to guard him.
The Trail Blazers are just one game back of Houston for the No. 3 spot, while Denver is 1.5 up on Houston for No. 2. The Nuggets must win 2 of their last 3 to clinch the No. 2 spot and Portland has to win out and hope that Houston loses one of their last couple of games.
Denver seems to be helping that cause out a bit for Portland. The two teams match up and the Nuggets are electing to rest their top players for the game tonight. Coming in the middle of a big playoff race, this seems a little bit fishy. Both teams seem to be hoping that the Rockets fall to the Thunder in their last game of the season, setting up the second round matchup of Portland-Denver.
Could this backfire on the Nuggets?
This plan could absolutely hurt the Nuggets if it goes south. If Houston takes care of business against Phoenix and Portland beats Denver as expected tonight, then the Rockets would be just 0.5 games back of the No. 2 spot and home court in the second round.
The next opponent of the Nuggets, the Jazz, won’t be an easy win. There’s a very real chance that Denver drops that game as well. If Houston beats OKC, they own the tiebreaker over Denver and would be the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
This is a very interesting situation to be in as the season concludes. The Nuggets obviously would prefer to play the injured Trail Blazers over the healthy and dangerous Rockets squad. They won’t ever admit to losing tonight on purpose, but it certainly seems that way!