The Rockets have reached rarified air for the city of Houston. On Saturday, they slogged through their worst offensive performance of the year, but still managed to beat the Pistons in overtime, notching their franchise record best 59th win. On Sunday, still short handed with both Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute out, James Harden (despite a poor shooting night) managed a triple double as they wasted the abysmal Atlanta Hawks for win No. 60.
With eight games remaining, 65 wins seems likely and would make the Rockets only the 21st team in NBA history to hit that mark. Win out and they would rank among the best seven regular season teams of all time and give them winning streaks of 17, 14 and 17 games. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
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More importantly, the Warriors, who continue to struggle with injury concerns—Steve Curr declared Steph Curry out for at least the first round of the playoffs with an MCL sprain—lost again to Utah putting them five games back. Given the remaining number of games and who the Rockets play (Bulls and Suns this week), it is possible they could clinch the No. 1 seed by the end of the week and home court advantage throughout the playoffs and the Finals should they reach them.
And while the Warriors deal with health issues, the Rockets have a chance to rest key players down the stretch. It is unlikely Harden will take more than a game off, but any even minor injury will for any player will be handed with kid gloves. Paul will be back Tuesday and Mbah a Moute should be back Friday, but there isn't really a rush.
Still, the team will also need to maintain some chemistry and intensity as they tune up for the playoffs. If they do indeed wind up with the top seed in the West, there are a host of teams they could face with the fourth and ninth seed separated by only three games. At this point, the most likely options are Utah, Denver or Minnesota, but San Antonio and New Orleans are also possibilities.
Soon enough, we'll get to handicapping first round opponents. For now, it's enough to make note of how remarkable this team has been all season and make sure they remain healthy as the real season inches closer.