This week is where Houston starts the brutal 4-game stretch to which I had previously alluded, taking on the Clippers, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Jazz in succession. That’s after Monday’s matchup with a 30-29 Pacers team that decided to hang onto Paul George.
The Rockets have now built their cushion over the four-seed to five games, and cut the Spurs’ lead to 3.5 games. Utah currently is in fourth, but Chris Paul is back. All of the West’s top four seeds are currently on winning streaks, and all of the top three have been playing well: Golden State and the Spurs are each 8-2 in their last ten games, and the Rockets are 7-3. Houston is back up to a .700 win percentage, and on pace for 57 wins. This upcoming four-game stretch is the last difficult stretch of the season. One hopes to just split, but the four games will go a long way towards telling us where this team stands. Houston looks completely rejuvenated after the break, and with the addition of Lou Williams, but are they back to their December heights?
And if the postseason started today, Houston would open at home against Memphis, a matchup which keeps me up at night. I’d feel much better if the Thunder could climb to sixth, but would honestly just be grateful avoiding the Jazz in round 1. If they were to beat the Grizzlies, they’d then take on the winner of San Antonio and Oklahoma City, another round in which I’d like our chances. Any scenario that avoids the Jazz (and of course the Warriors) for as long as possible, increases the Rockets’ odds for a return trip to the conference finals.