With a record of 44-22 the Houston Rockets are in good shape for the playoffs. As long as they don’t tank it during the final few weeks of the regular season there is no reason to believe that the Rockets are not going to be a No. 4, 5 or 6 seed.
That’s a huge step up from barely making or missing the playoffs over the last four seasons, but with the addition of Dwight Howard that was expected. The real question going is whether they are first round fodder or if they are a real contender.
They had a chance to make a statement one way or another over the last couple weeks, but instead the future is as cloudy and uncertain as ever. During the month of March the Rockets have played eight games—two against easier opponents and six against real playoff contenders. The first three they faced—Miami, Indiana, and Portland—they defeated and looked really good in the process. The last three—Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Miami again—not so much.
With 82 games to be played during the season there are bound to be pitfalls and issues, but you’d hope that at this time in the season a team would be firing on all cylinders. In the three wins the Rockets appeared to be doing just that. The team played well enough that James Harden felt confident enough to call Houston the best team in the league.
Then they get blown out in an embarrassing game against Chicago. A really bad second period lost them the Oklahoma City game. The ship appeared to be righted against a Miami team that was coming off its fifth loss in six games, but then some questionable and confusing play cost them the game late in the fourth period.
“I was just as confused as you were,” Lin said. “We had two players trying to do two different matchups. We were both caught in the middle like, ‘who are we listening to or what is going on exactly?’ That was unfortunate. That was not a great situation.”
The confusion came when LeBron James was subbed back in for Chris Anderson and Houston got Jeremy Lin back in the game for Terrence Jones. In the rush to make the switch some confusion was created and Ray Allen—one of the most dangerous three-point shooters to ever play the game—was left wide open. He took the shot, made it, got hot down the stretch and led the Heat to a 113-104 win.
The loss gave Houston its first three game losing streak of the season. While these kinds of things do happen to even the best teams (see Miami’s five losses in six prior to Sunday’s game) the Rockets have yet to prove they can be consistent against top competition. In the playoffs it will be nothing but the best of the best so they will need to get it figured out over the final 16 games---that is, if they want to make it further than the first round.