With a nearly-completely-healthy roster and a five-game winning streak, the Rockets seem to finally be looking like the team we expected when the season started. They still have a pair of tough games against Toronto and Philly staring them in the face, but we said they would do well to go 4-4 in their first eight games after the All-Star break. They are currently 5-1 in that stretch.
More importantly, they are making real headway in the race to secure home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs. As of writing this, they remain one game back of both Portland and Oklahoma City. They lost their season series against the Trail Blazers and are 1-2 against OKC with one game left on the final night of the season no less.
While the Blazers continue to look solid, going 7-3 in their last 10, the Thunder have gone only 5-5 in their last 10 including losses to the Pelicans and Kings.
For the Rockets, they first want a home court spot in the first round, but their sights should be set on that third seed. At this point, it is unlikely Golden State is unseated from the top spot in the West. Should the Rockets finish third, that would put them on the opposite bracket from the Warriors. They would only face them if both were to rematch in the Western Conference Finals.
Fortunately, these next couple games notwithstanding, the Rockets schedule is roughly even with Portland but both have it much easier than the Thunder. OKC faces 13 playoff teams in their final 19 compared to 7 each for the Rockets and Blazers. Two of those 13 for the Thunder are the Rockets and Portland.
None of the three has a particular home-versus-road advantage as all have roughly half their games at home in the final stretch.
For the Rockets, the chief concern remains winning while solidifying their rotation for the playoffs. With Kenneth Faried appearing ready to return from a mild injury and Iman Shumpert able to play if it were the playoffs, they finally have a full complement and will need the next few weeks to figure out how to set their lineups.
And while they certainly won't say they are scoreboard watching, no doubt they have penciled that number three seed into their list of wants for the rest of the season. If they keep playing the way they have, they have a good shot.
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