Although there’s not been any indication on how the NBA will resume, here’s why the Houston Rockets should want the league to pick back up in the playoffs.
As we all know by now, the NBA has decided to temporarily suspend the NBA season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This means the Houston Rockets have been forced to pump the brakes at the 64-game mark, which is unfortunate considering how they had just snapped out of a four-game losing streak.
The latest update we’ve received is that many NBA owners are anticipating a return in mid-July as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still advising against large gatherings. Although we don’t know the direction the league will go in once the smoke clears, it’s been stated that all options are on the table.
One option the league could explore is having the playoffs start once the suspension is lifted, for several reasons. For one, the eight teams that are currently slated to make the postseason would likely not change in either conference, and for two, it would be the most feasible way to make up for having lost presumably three months (or more) on the calendar.
The question is whether the Rockets would benefit from jumping straight into the postseason. Sure there would be challenges of going such a lengthy time period without being able to have team practices, but that challenge would be the same for every team, not just the Rockets.
The downside is that the Rockets didn’t necessarily head into the suspension playing well, as they lost four of their last five games, but the major problem they ran into was simply not making shots, which wouldn’t necessarily be resolved from a length of absence.
On top of that, one of the biggest reasons for their struggles was James Harden and Eric Gordon not making shots, which in Gordon’s case can be attributed to injuries. If the playoffs were to start based on the current standings, the Rockets would be facing the Denver Nuggets in the first round, as Denver has the third seed in the West and the Rockets have the sixth seed.
The Rockets have gone 2-2 against Denver this season, but they haven’t played them without Clint Capela out of the lineup, or with Robert Covington in the lineup for any of those games. In essence, the Nuggets haven’t seen this version of the Rockets. During the Nuggets’ most recent victory over the Rockets on January 26th, James Harden didn’t play, which is a big deal as it pertain to the Nuggets.
In the 10 games in which the Rockets have faced the Nuggets since the 2017-18 season, Harden has averaged 30.1 points, 8.5 assists, 6 rebounds, and a 3-point clip of 43.6 percent against the Nuggets. During this span, the Nuggets have gone 143-86, which is 62.4 percent winning ratio. Needless to say, even the Nuggets’ best version of themselves hasn’t been able to stop The Beard.
The Rockets would also not have to face the Los Angeles Lakers until the Western Conference Finals, as their second round matchup as currently constructed would be the winner of the LA Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series. Assuming the Clips win that series, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has already admitted that he’s not afraid of the Clippers (or the Lakers for that matter).
We don’t know how the remainder of the season will unfold, if at all, but if the season picks back up in the postseason, it could be good for the Houston Rockets.