Well, that didn't quite go as planned now, did it?
Heading into Wednesday night's slate of NBA games, as outlined here, the Rockets were sitting in the two seed in the Western Conference, controlling their own destiny, with the franchise's next MVP Award firmly in its sights.
It was all downhill from there. As James Harden was staging his own viewing of "How To Lose An MVP Award In Three Days" (with help from an ungodly barrage unleashed by Steph Curry Thursday night against Portland), the Rockets themselves were losing back-to-back games to the San Antonio Spurs, one in a blowout and the other in heartbreaking final play fashion.
Amazingly, when it was all said and done, the four teams battling for spots 2, 3, 5 and 6 in the West (Portland is locked in at No. 4) literally flipped all the way around, effectively making their portion of the standings, by Sunday night, a mirror image of Wednesday's.
Here's how it looks now:
1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS .. 65-15 2. SAN ANTONIO SPURS .. 55-26 3. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS .. 54-26 4. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS .. 51-29 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES .. 54-26 6. HOUSTON ROCKETS .. 54-26 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS -- 49-31 8. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS .. 43-37 9. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER .. 43-37
And here are the remaining schedules of the four aforementioned teams duking it out for the two seed:
2. San Antonio Spurs (55-26) Wed, Apr 15 @ New Orleans
3. Los Angeles Clippers (54-26) Mon, Apr 13 vs Denver Tue, Apr 14 @ Phoenix
5. Memphis Grizzlies (54-26) Mon, Par 13 @ Golden State Wed, Apr 15 vs Indiana
6. Houston Rockets (54-26) Mon, Apr 13 @ Charlotte Wed, Apr 15 vs Utah
Dammit, that's hard to look at, especially considering if the Rockets could've just gotten a bucket at the end of the Spurs game on Friday, they're probably cruising to the two seed, which with it would've brought the following:
1. A first round date with the Dallas Mavericks, who are about as ill-conceived a better-than-average team as you could find.
2. Home court guaranteed in not one but TWO series.
3. Avoiding the Golden State Warriors until the conference finals, guaranteed.
Now, because of where they stand on tiebreakers, the Rockets are likely going to need to a) win out (fairly likely) and b) have all three teams in front of them lose a game. When you consider that the Clippers play against two teams that have essentially stopped trying, this is not good.
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The three seed, too, is unlikely, as, in addition to the Clippers' soft schedule, the Spurs have only one game left. Granted, it's on the road against what should be a motivated Pelicans team fighting for a playoff spot, but the Spurs are a machine right now.
So the most likely scenario out of sixth seed jail, and the multiple road series that come with it just to get to the conference finals, is to get to the five seed, which can happen with the Rockets winning out and the Grizzlies getting beat in Golden State tonight. Let's hope Steve Kerr doesn't try to jam the Rockets for some reason and rest Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Yes, Rockets fans, you have to root for Steph Curry on Monday night.
This playoff stuff makes for strange bedfellows.