While both teams from Los Angeles would be favored over the Houston Rockets in a normal environment, the NBA’s restart is far from normal.
When the playoffs begin, the Los Angeles Lakers will be at the top of the Western Conference while the LA Clippers won’t be far behind. Both clubs won more than 68 percent of their games before the NBA’s shutdown while the Houston Rockets established themselves in the middle of the pack with a 62.5 percent win mark.
Most people in the media and NBA circles are anticipating an L.A. showdown in the Western Conference Finals. Given the wealth of talent on both squads, it’s hard to fault this notion. Still, if there’s ever been a situation where a wild card team comes out of nowhere, the Orlando bubble is it.
On an episode of Jalen & Jacoby, Jalen Rose included the Houston Rockets on his list of “anything is possible” teams that could surprise people in the playoffs. Boasting about the superstar duo, Rose explained why:
“They have one guy in James Harden that basically averages 40 this year. Russell Westbrook, who is scoring more points in the paint than anybody in the league since January. A lot of times, their tallest player is P.J. Tucker. They’ve invested in small ball.”
With both Harden and Westbrook looking healthy and spry in Houston’s two scrimmage games, the Rockets have two of the most reliable guys in the NBA when it comes to producing on the court.
The Houston Rockets are coming together
It was certainly an interesting start for the Rockets when we all learned that Westbrook and Harden were both going to be delayed in joining the team on the Orlando campus. Fortunately, Westbrook’s battle with COVID-19 and Harden’s personal issue happened early enough that they were both able to get back into the swing of things before their season resumes on July 31st.
The Rockets still don’t have their full roster available yet, as Austin Rivers and Luc Mbah a Moute haven’t been able to join the team on the court — however, their absences should not be lasting much longer.
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The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, have already lost the services of two important guards in Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo while the Clippers are dealing with the drama surrounding Lou Williams’ “excused absence” incident.
The Clippers also will have less time than they would prefer to incorporate Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, and Landry Shamet back into the fold, as they all recently reached the bubble to begin their quarantine periods.
While it may be a stretch to say the Rockets match up with the Clippers better than anyone else in the league (as Austin Rivers once said), the zaniness of the season’s restart allows for a more wide-open field than ever.
With such a high variance team, why couldn’t it be the Rockets that play spoilers in the Western Conference this season?
“This is going to be AAU open-gym rec ball,” said Rose. “The Houston Rockets, in this format, have a wild card chance to upset one of the L.A. teams.”