Why we should be optimistic about the Houston Rockets’ title hopes

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images) /

How They Match Up Against the Competition

Obviously, every team feels like their title chances are greater this year with Kevin Durant departing from the Warriors, as this created parity throughout the league. With the Warriors being out of the way, the main competition for the Rockets in the Western Conference will likely be the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

After three matchups against the Clippers this season, the Rockets have showcased their ability to beat them if they were to matchup in a playoff series as long as the Rockets are fully healthy. The Rockets are 2-1 in those matchups, all without Eric Gordon, although the Clippers did play the first game without Paul George.

During the first matchup, Harden was unstoppable as he scored 47 points in a win, in spite of drawing constant double-teams from Paul George and Patrick Beverley. During the most recent game between the two, Russell Westbrook was the focal point and shined in his hometown of Los Angeles. Russ had 40 points and was able to take advantage of limited rim protection for the Clippers in addition to the gravity of James Harden. The Clippers have a very strong team but they have a few weaknesses that the Rockets can take advantage of.

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For one, they don’t have a true playmaking point guard, which could be a huge factor against a team like the Rockets who have two elite playmakers. Lou Williams is their best playmaker but he’s also their biggest liability on the defensive end. Kawhi Leonard has also shown improvement in his playmaking abilities this season, but the Clips still lag in that department in comparison to the Houston Rockets.

This means the Rockets would be able to consistently generate better shots if they happen to meet in the playoffs due to their elite natural playmakers and spacing.

The other team the Rockets should be paying attention to is the Lakers, who currently hold the top spot in the West. The Lakers obviously have an advantage in the size and length department, but the Rockets have the firepower to overcome that. Houston has the highest-scoring duo in the NBA and with Eric Gordon rounding into shape they will be very difficult to deal with. Clint Capela will also be a huge key in this matchup, as he and P.J. Tucker will have to rebound at a high level. This is where the Rockets’ improved rebounding will be a huge lift because to beat the Lakers in the playoffs, they will need to compete on the glass.

Ultimately we should be very confident in their title chances this year because no team presents as much of an uphill battle as the Warriors have in past seasons. It almost felt as if the Houston Rockets had to play a perfect series to beat that Golden State Warriors’ dynasty, and the Rockets came closer than any other team in the league since they added Durant, and nearly completed the mission.

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This year, the Houston Rockets have the most offensive firepower in the league and have the potential to overpower any team in the league in any given series. This should give Rockets fans a type of confidence they couldn’t necessarily have against last year’s Warriors superteam.