Last night was a frustrating night for the young Rockets squad. They had their worst offensive output of the season, scoring just 78 points (ten in the first quarter) and getting it handed to them in the most lopsided loss of the season against the team directly ahead of them in the playoff chase, Golden State. It happened at Toyota Center, making it an even more bitter pill to swallow.
But it isn't all bad news. The Rockets are still seventh in the Western Conference seedings, one game up in the loss column over the LA Lakers and a game and a half up on the Utah Jazz. As with the entire season, the news isn't all bad, but it isn't all good, either.
Good News: Portland and Dallas are almost entirely out of the playoff picture. Bad News: The Lakers are not.
What had been a five-way race for the final three playoff spots in the West appears to now be down to just four as Dallas and Portland have fallen well back of the Warriors, Rockets, Lakers and Jazz. Unfortunately, the Lakers, all but written off a month ago, have been surging and looking once again like a real playoff threat. It is reasonable to assume they could ascend from out of the playoffs to the sixth seed and the last game of the year for the Rockets is at LA.
Good News: Nine of the Rockets final 15 games are at home. Bad News: Eight of their final games are against teams with winning records.
It's going to be a tough stretch run no matter how you look at it. While the Rockets still have a majority of games at home, some very tough match ups remain including Wednesday against the Jazz, a pivotal game in the playoff chase. There are also games against the Spurs, Pacers, Clippers and Grizzlies at home nevermind games at Denver, Memphis and at the Lakers.
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Good News: The Rockets didn't have James Harden last year when they missed the playoffs. Bad News: Harden is not 100 percent.
Last year, the Rockets collapsed and missed the playoffs. In the offseason, they completely overhauled the roster, most notably bringing Harden over in a trade with OKC. The problem is that Harden is struggling with an ankle injury he won't be able to fully recover from until after the season. It has hurt both his shooting percentage and his explosiveness going to the basket, but he is still one of the best in the business even hobbling around on a bad ankle. The Rockets will need everything they can get from Harden, particularly after the Thomas Robinson trade that left them woefully short on experience at the power forward position.
Good News: Win or lose, the Rockets are in outstanding position for the future. Bad News: The Texans are not.
If we had to take a look at local teams going in seemingly the opposite direction, these would be the two. I won't even bother to mention the Astros and God knows whatever they are doing over there. The Rockets not only have a young, talented roster with a perennial all-star player in Harden, they also have a massive amount of room under the salary cap and tradable assets. Getting to the playoffs should certainly help them develop, but even if they don't their future looks bright. The Texans, well, they are just hoping Ed Reed didn't give them the ol' Carlos Beltrán. Yikes.