There will be no shortage of drama, star power, and intrigue when the Houston Rockets tip off their second-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers Friday.
Since the 2019-20 season started, the attention of most of the mainstream media has been focused on a potential playoff matchup between the two revamped powerhouses from Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in Texas, the Houston Rockets have flipped traditional basketball on its axis, taking small ball to the extreme while also not sacrificing on the defensive end.
Despite being pushed to the brink against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets still managed a defensive rating of 102.4 points per 100 possessions, which was second only to the Boston Celtics (101.6) of all playoff teams in the first round. The figure is way down from Houston’s regular-season rating of 110.1, which was 14th out of the 30 NBA teams.
In every sense, these Houston Rockets are different from every past iteration of themselves and are different from any team that’s ever existed. This fact brings me to the first reason the NBA should be thrilled about the showdown between the Rockets and Lakers: unpredictability.
The Houston Rockets are as unpredictable as it gets
The Rockets’ innovative GM, Daryl Morey, has made it a point to push the envelope every season, and this team is the most extreme example yet. Morey often talks about the high variance of this team — how they make up for certain deficiencies by emphasizing the more valuable 3-pointer more than ever before.
There haven’t been many teams in NBA history in which you can simultaneously believe they could be upset in the first round while also believing they might win it all. That’s exactly what you get on a nightly basis with these Rockets, though.
Houston didn’t have Russell Westbrook to start their first-round series against the Thunder, yet they used hot shooting and stellar defense to establish a 2-0 lead nonetheless. When Westbrook returned, he struggled for a couple of games, leasing the Rockets to go 1-1 to set up a deciding Game 7.
Only against a team with such a considerable margin for random results can you see an undrafted rookie in Luguentz Dort put his name in the record books with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Only with the Rockets can you see a guy who’s having the worst season of his career in Eric Gordon suddenly become a hero in a series-clinching game.
You never know which version of the Rockets you’re going to get on a given night, and that makes for high drama each time they hit the court.