In her first trip to Las Vegas, my wife decided to place her very first sports bet on the Houston Rockets. She and two of her friends put $100 each on the Rockets in their game against Minnesota on Friday night. Any win would net them $190 each and even a loss by one would keep them from losing. The Rockets lost by 2 and it was then decided she should never bet on their games again.
This is life in the world of the Houston Rockets fans. If it is can go down to the wire, if they can lose critical games only to make them up with big wins later, that is what will happen. I am always amazed that despite playing 82 games, teams will fight for spots in the playoffs right down to the last game of the season. In this case, the Rockets did it in the second to last. Close enough.
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In the final home game, the Rockets dropped the Spurs and secured home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs that will open this weekend in Toyota Center against the Portland Trailblazers. It was also a significant win in that the Rockets swept the Spurs. Granted, San Antonio sat for most or all of the game the team that won them the best record in the Western Conference. But, a win is a win and, at this time of the year, it might be bigger than that.
Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, who each missed eight games with injuries, clearly are rounding into shape as they head into their final game at New Orleans on Wednesday. And, in this penultimate performance, second-year forward Terrence Jones appears to have climbed over the wall he hit not long ago and is legitimately becoming a force on both ends of the floor.
Now, they can turn their focus to a surging Portland team with one of the best low post players in the west in LaMarcus Aldridge and a frenetic point guard Damian Lillard. Having home court is a significant plus for the Rockets. Better than 60 percent of teams with that advantage in the NBA playoffs go on to win, but it will take more than percentages to win against the Blazers.
For the moment, they can appreciate the fact that they accomplished the goal of home court in at least one round of the playoffs. With the win Monday, they reached the win total I predicted in my season preview (not to break my arm patting myself on the back or anything). But, they still need one more win to go over the preseason Vegas predicted total of 54-and-a-half wins. Since my wife didn't put any money on the over, I'm betting they reach 55.