Houston Rockets: Analyzing favorable and unfavorable playoff matchups

Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – JANUARY 9: Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Unfavorable Matchups for the Houston Rockets

Oklahoma City Thunder

When the blockbuster trade that swapped Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul took place last summer, very few people saw the Thunder battling for a higher seed than the Rockets. In what many thought to be a rebuilding year, Oklahoma City has stunned much of the NBA world.

Behind a healthy Chris Paul, an up-and-coming Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a veteran sniper in Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder pose a scary match-up. With the Rockets having already gone 1-2 against the Thunder before small-ball, Oklahoma City is still thriving in the bubble.

The Rockets are known for going hot-and-cold in games, and during those cold spells, the Thunder could be dangerous and steal games.

LA Clippers

The LA Clippers are perhaps the scariest team, that nobody wants to run into. With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the team and the heart and soul that is Patrick Beverly getting under players’ skin, the Clippers can cause problems.

With Westbrook and Beverley already having issues in the past, Patrick could neutralize Russell and force him to take unnecessary shots. Splitting the season series 2-2 with LA, Houston has faced them with the micro-ball lineup and it was a 120-105 routing by the Clippers. With how deep LA’s bench can go into games, it will be a difficult task when matched up, because they too can go small by taking Ivica Zubac out and beat Houston at their own game.

Dallas Mavericks

The first Houston Rockets bubble game was a shootout against the Dallas Mavericks. That game that went into overtime, despite the Rockets being down by eight with about 45 seconds left on the clock.

The Rockets needed some late-game heroics, as they benefited from a last-second tip-in by Robert Covington, which saved the game. This won’t be the case every game, especially in a seven-game series.

Luka Doncic and James Harden are very similar basketball players, with the signature step-back threes and questionable defense. But now that Harden has stepped up his defensive presence, the advantage goes to James.

Alongside Doncic, the Mavs have a solid bench that can knock down shots just like the Rockets, with guys like Maxi Kleber and Trey Burke. These two teams are well-matched and a potential playoff series could sway in any team’s favor, going down to the wire.

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With an improved defensive effort all around from the Houston Rockets, it appears they have eyes locked on a 2020 championship. There are some obstacles and challenges in the way, but that is what it will take to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year.