The Houston Rockets may have missed an opportunity to move up in the pecking order in terms of the standings, will it hurt their championship chances? Look.
The Houston Rockets continue to amaze in their return to the bubble that they suddenly find themselves as a dark horse contender for the NBA championship. However, the biggest concern the Rockets face right now is what seed to play for in the playoffs that will make the trip to the championship as favorable as the others.
So yesterday, the Houston Rockets played the San Antonio Spurs in a matinee inside the bubble. I have to admit a 1 p.m. game is surprising, especially on a weekday. Yet, the NBA schedule has gotten fans a unique look at the teams competing considering that there are 22 teams inside the bubble all vying for 16 spots.
Anyway, the Houston Rockets were playing the Spurs and needless to say, that game had an L written all over on it after it was announced that James Harden would be getting rest and Daniel House would be out with a sore toe while Eric Gordon was still recovering from his ankle sprain. It’s no fun to see the Rockets not play up to their potential, but in hindsight, we’re doing the right thing by getting our guys the rest they need. Russell Westbrook will be resting tomorrow against the Pacers and Houston will look to have a fully healthy team in the playoffs.
And that is where another problem lies for the Houston Rockets. It’s not a bad problem, but it’s one the Houston Rockets have encountered before.
I follow a few Rockets insider accounts on Instagram and one of them is from an account with the handle of (@rocketsforever_). I recommend you follow it if you haven’t because the person running the account provides good insight which included a current debate about potential matchups in the playoffs.
At halftime, the Spurs were up 66-49 and I noticed an update to the fan forum I was following. Below in the comments section, he said that there wouldn’t be too many complaints on his end as a loss would help us more in the standings.
A loss helping us in the standings? Doesn’t that mean we would drop? So, out of curiosity, I asked why would it help us and a few people replied that it would give us a first-round matchup with Oklahoma City with the possibility of facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round should the Rockets get by the Thunder.
Right now, the Rockets are currently slotted as the fourth seed and if the playoffs started this way, Houston would be facing Oklahoma City, a team that has beaten Houston two out of three times so far this year. There is a bit of concern on the Rockets’ end when it comes to facing this matchup because the Thunder have had the Rockets number in five of the last seven meetings.
However, a positive for the Rockets is that this was before they decided to trade Clint Capela and go to a small-ball lineup, which up to now has proven to be effective. The Thunder haven’t seen the Rockets’ new-look offense and chances are the result might be different. A series with OKC might last six games if not seven, but should the Rockets get by, they would get a showdown with the Lakers.
If we know anything about the Lakers, they are the favorites to win it all. Yet, they haven’t been the team they were before the pandemic started. While Laker fans will excuse LeBron James for sitting out in the last meeting, the Rockets have been a big threat to the Lakers. They’ve won five of the last seven meetings with the Lakers and it does appear that a matchup with L.A. is more favorable to the Rockets.
On the other hand, there’s being the third seed. Had Houston won today against the Spurs, they
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would’ve gotten as close to the No. 3 seed, which meant a first-round matchup with the Utah Jazz. This matchup does seem to be tight in the past two seasons as Houston had a 4-3 edge in their past seven meetings. Yet, the last two years have also seen the Rockets dominate Utah in the playoffs four games to one in each series.
Beating the Jazz would give the Rockets a potential second-round matchup with the Clippers. Obviously, the Clippers are no pushover after acquiring Kawhi Leonard. This season has seen each team win twice. A matchup between the Rockets and Clippers might be a toss-up either way. Yet, they have the edge in terms of perimeter defense.
There are arguments to be made that the Rockets can and can’t beat either Los Angeles team. Houston played three close hard-fought games with the Clippers and defeated them twice during the regular season. The Rockets had a bad third quarter against the Lakers in their lone loss to them this season. Small ball won’t run all the way to the championship against either team some might say. Yet, that’s why they play the game.
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Regardless of who the Rockets face in the playoffs between the Thunder, the Jazz, or whoever, the playoffs will be tough, especially under these circumstances. Whether matchups are favorable or not doesn’t guarantee victories, yet the Rockets could make it less complicated than they did last year when instead of finishing in the top three, they wound up losing to Golden State again in six games in 2019.
Sadly, Golden State is not there anymore and the Rockets have an opening for a few years. Let’s only hope they take advantage of the opening, even if none of us our in-person to see it happen.