The Western Conference Playoffs race is a complete mess with only 2 days remaining in the regular season. Keep reading below to see the best and worst case scenario for the Houston Rockets.
There’s 3 games remaining between teams that have already clinched a playoff berth in the West. Golden State will play Utah, San Antonio will face off against New Orleans, and then Utah will face Portland. Wednesday also features a winner-take-all matchup between the Nuggets and Timberwolves that decides the final playoff spot. There is certainly going to be movement in the standings between now and the end of the regular season. This makes for multiple outcomes for the Houston Rockets in Round 1.
The potential opponents in Round 1 for the Rockets are the Pelicans, Spurs, and Timberwolves. The Houston Rockets are 10-2 against those teams this season. Which team would be the toughest matchup for Houston? Which team would the Rockets be salivating over seeing this weekend in Game 1 at Toyota Center?
Toughest Round 1 matchup: San Antonio Spurs
Despite going 3-1 against the Spurs, the Rockets only shot 31% from 3-point range this season in 4 meetings. And the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard for 3 of those 4 games. It is unlikely, but not impossible that Kawhi returns to the team for the playoffs. If he does return to the Spurs healthy, that’s a team that no one wants to play in the playoffs at any point. Even without Kawhi, they’re no pushovers. The Rockets have seen firsthand how dangerous Lamarcus Aldridge can be in the playoffs if he’s hot, and Gregg Popovich has always gotten the better of Mike D’Antoni when their teams have faced off in the playoffs in the past.
On the other hand, how great would it be to see James Harden, and D’Antoni silence the critics against Popovich’s Spurs, the team that embarrassed the Rockets in Game 6 last May? The Spurs might be the most intriguing matchup from a storyline perspective.
Easiest Round 1 matchup: Minnesota Timberwolves
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It was tough not to pick the Minnesota Timberwolves here. The Rockets were 4-0 against Minnesota this season, and shot 43% from 3-point distance against them. The Wolves have players to compete, but so far they just can’t compete with the Houston Rockets style of play.
With stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jimmy Butler, Minnesota is a serious threat to any team in a 7-game series. However, the they’ve struggled on defense all year long, as the T’Wolves are 26th in the NBA in defensive rating with only 1 game to go.
Towns may get the better of Clint Capela in this series, or perhaps Andrew Wiggins get hot. Even if one of those things, or both happen, this would be a great matchup for Houston. Chris Paul and Harden would have plenty of isolation opportunities against the Minnesota big men, and have proven to score at will against big men all season. This series would be over in 5 games.
There’s a lot of NBA action left to determine the seedings . When the regular season concludes on Wednesday, expect the standings to be vastly different. Whether it is the Spurs, Timberwolves, or anyone else expect these Houston Rockets to waltz through the first round with ease.