The Houston Rockets had won 50 games five times in franchise history before this season. Four times, their winning percentage was above .600, once above .700. The best of those was clearly the 1993-94 team that won 58, a .707 winning percentage. That team, featuring league MVP Hakeem Olajuwon, also won the championship. They were clearly the best team in franchise history.
But, this Rockets team, with MVP James Harden, is far and away the best regular season team in franchise history and it isn't close.
After beating the "hottest team in the NBA," the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, they were one game shy of the best record in franchise history with 11 games to go. They have an astonishing .803 winning percentage. Of their remaining schedule, eight games are at home and six are against non-playoff teams. They are probably going to win 64 or 65 games before it's all said and done.
The Rockets have clinched at least the second seed for the playoffs in the West, but they are four games up on Golden State (five if you count the tiebreaker, which they own) with only 11 left. Just as importantly, they are four games up in the loss column to Toronto as well meaning even if the Raptors and Warriors win out, the Rockets would have to lose five games to lose out on home court advantage throughout the playoffs. You think that's going to happen? Neither do we.
The Rockets are in pretty rarefied air. They're probably going to wind up somewhere in the neighborhood of 66 wins. Historically, NBA teams to win 65+ regular season games have won the title 15 of 20 times.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) March 21, 2018
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All of this is, obviously, moot if the Rockets falter in the playoffs, but there are indicators that might be positive in that regard as well. Harden and Chris Paul are both averaging fewer minutes than in previous seasons thanks in part to the crazy depth the team possesses. They still have only lost twice when Harden, Paul and Clint Capela play together. They are 41-2 when they are on the court together. 41-2. That is one of the most astonishing statistics you'll ever see in basketball.
But, then you look at their crunch time numbers. They are the most efficient team in the NBA in the clutch ranking first in true field goal percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio and net rating, which combines their offensive and defensive efficiency. They also have the highest winning percentage and are literally perfect at home in those situations.
They are nearly impossible to guard down the stretch. Harden is the best isolation player in the game and a deadly threat with his step back three point game mixed with his ability to get to the rim on anyone. Paul is one of the league's most deadly midrange shooters, with Harden, literally covering every part of the floor offensively. And if that weren't enough, they are both in the top five in assists per game.
None of that may translate into a championship this season, but it most definitely translates into one of the great regular season performances of all time. For now, we can take that victory and look to the statistics and trends to hope for a deep playoff run.