Well after going through countless stretch run scenarios and predicting the results we find ourselves here. The Rockets (not unexpectedly) failed to pull off that six-game win streak that so many expected and stumbled to an embarrassing 38-41 with a loss against the Phoenix Suns.
I assumed it was all over from there and was starting to plan my free-agency prospects posts before the Los Angeles Clippers did the Rockets a solid.
Jamal Crawford drilling that three-pointer just before the buzzer is probably the reason the Rockets make the playoffs as the Jazz have failed to take care of business down the stretch. Dropping games against the Mavericks and the Spurs have sealed their fate and they will most likely be on the outside looking in at the end of today.
It is not a foregone conclusion that the Rockets make the playoffs today but in realty if they lose this game they don’t deserve to be there in the first place.
I set out to try and write an optimistic piece about how the Rockets will be different once the slate has been wiped clean but it’s really outweighed by just how dominant these Warriors have been this season.
The next week looks pretty bleak.
For what it’s worth, the Rockets have played well these last two games for big blow out victories against the Lakers and a very-underrated Minnesota Timberwolves outfit. Although James Harden as been brilliant (as he has been all season) the team has really stepped up and Dwight Howard has looked engaged. Surprisingly, it has been Josh Smith who has led the charge (who somehow found his way off the bench) with some energy, shooting 53 percent from behind-the-arc.
These are good signs for the Rockets that the bench has been a strong contributor but we really need to take these performances with a pinch of salt as they’re against two lottery teams at the end of a long season.
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It’s very important that the Rockets play well today against the Sacramento Kings and that the bench plays well. There has been no continuity in any facet of the Rockets season, the rotations have been different, play styles have been erratic, even just plain effort has been inconsistent.
To have a three-game win streak (albeit against inferior opposition) to finish off the season with a good performance as a team would be a fantastic morale boost-heading into what looms as a very tough series against the Golden State Warriors.
Well to be honest, we don’t want the Warriors to come out and play.
The Warriors are a well oiled destructive machine and if they’re on their game the Rockets don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Let’s hope they spend too long celebrating their record-breaking season and the Rockets can pinch the first game at Oracle Arena.
A few things to note ahead of today’s game:
- JBB really needs to nail down his rotation today as it has been all over the place this season. I expect the first three quarters of the game to see the rotation be very similar to what we will see next week. Dwight and James will probably see major minutes and don’t be surprised to see Harden on the floor for the whole first half to get the team momentum going early.
and Smith have been the three cycling through the position as of late and we will be able to see today who they trust to take minutes in the playoffs. DMo’s minutes have reduced greatly recently but he and Smith hold an advantage over Beasley in that they are able to play center in small-ball lineups. Smith could see a lot of his minutes at center as they look to match the shooting and defense thatDraymond Green
brings when the Warriors go small.
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- James Harden. He has been under huge pressure all season and even more so since the All-Star break. It’s apparent that he has been carrying an injury recently which has resulted in his shooting slump. But he seems to be moving a lot easier in the last week or so and could be building up for a big playoff series. Look at him to go hard early tonight; however, he’ll try to have a bit of a break before the playoffs kick off.
- Dwight Howard. I noticed against Minnesota that he changed his style and the team reacted differently to him than they had previously. He demanded the ball a lot less in the post. He also looked to wait under the rim for drop off passes and alley-oops as the Rockets were actively looking for him every possession. As a result, when he did choose to post up the Rockets would find him and he would be in a good possession to make a good post up move. He had a very strong performance against the likely Rookie of the Year center Karl Anthony-Towns and it looks as if the mystical-beast playoff Dwight is kicking into gear.
There’s quite a few story lines to follow tonight but then again there could be even more if the Rockets manage to squander their playoff position.
Let’s hope for a strong performance tonight and to build some momentum for what is going to be a monumental task for the Rockets.