Every team wants home court advantage. It is a fairly good predictor of which team will win a series (something like 64 percent of teams with the home court win that series). But, for the Rockets, who are close to tying up the fourth seed and a first-round home court advantage over either the Trailblazers or Warriors, it might be the key to making a deep playoff run if they have one in them.
This is because it increases their chances of getting to the second round, which seems stupidly obvious, but for this team, there is something else: the chance to get healthy and regain their chemistry.
When the Rockets were fully healthy at the start of January, they quickly became the hottest team in the NBA. The more they played together, the better the got and they looked scary. Granted, this is still a young team in terms of experience, but they have the kind of high-flying offensive attack that keeps them in games and, at the time, they were just beginning to develop a fairly sturdy team defense, particularly on the interior.
With injuries to Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard, that progress has slowed. James Harden has emerged as a legitimate star -- if he wasn't already at that level -- during that time, but this team must be at full strength to compete in the playoffs. Beverley is due back soon and it appears Howard will play the last couple of games to tune up for the playoffs. If they can return at close to full strength, they will need time once again to gel and find a rhythm, something a first round home court advantage could provide them.
If they are able to get past the first round, it is likely they would face San Antonio, a team they have nearly owned this season. Even so, San Antonio is once again the class of the Western Conference, but they have vulnerabilities and they would appear to be a good matchup for the Rockets. If they were able to knock off the Spurs, their Western Conference title series opponent would probably be Oklahoma City or the Clippers, both teams that have had the best of the Rockets all season long.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. They first have to wrap up home court, which they can do in the next couple of games. Of the last six games, only one is against a playoff-bound team (San Antonio). Portland has four games left with the last two against Golden State, the team they are fighting for playoff seeding, and the Clippers. Additionally, the Rockets own the tiebreaker giving them a three-game edge over the Blazers, who seem destined to meet the Rockets in the first round.
From there, it's anyone's series, but if you are the Rockets, you'd prefer that series start in Houston. If it does, it could be the beginning of the most exciting NBA playoffs for Rockets fans in nearly two decades.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.