With only two days remaining in the NBA season, one would think playoff seeding is already set, right?
That’s far from the truth in the Western Conference, with only the Golden State Warriors being locked into their spot as the No. 1 seed. Two through eight are still a complete toss-up, so let’s take a look at how the Rockets’ (53-28) final game of the season impacts their seeding.
Scenario one: Houston beats OKC.
- If Denver goes 1-1 or 0-2, Houston is the No. 2 seed
- If Denver goes 2-0, Houston is the No. 3 seed
Scenario two: Houston loses to OKC.
- If Denver goes 0-2, Houston is the No. 3 seed
- If Denver goes 2-0 or 1-1, Portland’s record becomes involved
- Portland goes 1-1 or 0-2. Houston is the No. 3 seed
- Portland goes 2-0, Houston is the No. 4 seed
Wild, right? Denver’s remaining two games are at Utah and then at home against Minnesota. Portland will be in L.A. against the LeBron-less Lakers, then back home for Sacramento.
For the once 11-14 Rockets to even be in the conversation as a possible No. 2 seed is a testament to the historic season James Harden is having. At times, he has single-handedly dragged the Rockets to wins that they had no business earning. Harden’s had such a monumental season that he is putting up numbers that haven’t been seen since Wilt Chamberlain was still lacing them up.
That’s rarefied air.
In addition to Harden’s historic heroics, Houston is finally finding cohesion as a team. Since the All-Star break, the Rockets are 20-4, which is the best record in the NBA during that stretch.
Houston’s shooters are getting hot at just the right time. The Rockets are currently shooting 40 percent from behind the arc over their last 10 games and looking to build upon their No. 1 all-time streak of 15 plus three-pointers made per game (currently at eight games in a row).
The Thunder have struggled during the back half of the season (just 10-13 since the All-Star break), at one point falling from third in the West all the way to eighth. A team that looked great for the first half of the season shockingly regressed once it reached the hardest portion of its schedule.
However, Russell Westbrook and Paul George are still two of the most elite players in the NBA, and the Thunder are still a defensive juggernaut despite their recent struggles. In three games this season (two wins and a loss), they’ve held the Rockets to an average of 108 points and just 30 percent shooting from deep.
This final game between the Rockets and Thunder may serve as a first round preview, but given OKC’s struggles as of late and Houston’s insane shooting streak, fans shouldn’t worry. It would be a gentleman’s sweep at worst for the Rockets.
Harden might not see himself repeat as MVP due to an equally impressive season from the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, but with the level at which he and the Rockets are playing, Harden may find himself hoisting a different trophy when it’s all said and done.
Prediction: Rockets 123 – Thunder 106