After getting completely manhandled in a back to back against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Houston Rockets now sit at 29-17, fifth in the Western Conference. Entering the week, especially with Chris Paul’s injury, Houston seemed to have a real shot at overtaking the fourth-seeded Clippers and even applying pressure upon the skidding Blazers who seem destined to come back down to earth. But you didn’t really think the Rockets would seize the opportunity, did you? Come on man, this is the Houston Rockets we’re talking about. Jekyll and Hyde. They’ll trudge along amidst the middle seeds because they’re just not ready for prime time.
The Rockets will get a few days to lick their wounds before coming home to host the Spurs, the one truly elite team (I don’t really count the Blazers – they’re a paper tiger) who they’ve handled with relative ease. Kawhi Leonard is out, so expect James Harden to continue his dominance against these interstate rivals. (Isn’t it just weird how some guys just have some teams’ number?) I don’t expect Parker to be so thoroughly kept in check the way he was the last time these two teams got together. Could Houston beat San Antonio in a seven game series? They could, but I probably wouldn’t bet on it. I could honestly see the Rockets winning the first two games of the series before Poppovich made some adjustment that completely threw the good guys for a loop, causing the series to completely shift. But on paper, and on the scoreboard so far, this is the single best matchup for the Rockets out of any of the elite teams. Leonard, for some reason, can’t handle Harden, Howard is enough to neutralize Timmy, and Splitter is the one Western Conference power forward who cannot truly capitalize upon the Rockets’ inexperience at the power forward. In fact, if they played the Spurs on a national stage, I could see Terrence Jones have a coming out party the likes of Harrison Barnes’ last year.
The good guys then travel to Dallas the very next night to take on a Mavericks team against whom they’ve dropped their last two. Without Asik, it will be a very long night facing Dirk Nowitzki. And lastly, the home fans will get an up close look at Kyrie Irving when the Rockets come back home to face Cleveland on Saturday the 1st.
And there’s a look at the standings, as of today. OKC and San Antonio will continue to run away with the conference, while I expect Portland to drop back down to earth towards the next tier. Houston, Portland, and Golden State should battle it out for the next seeds as the season progresses. I expect Phoenix to continue to fall, now 4-6 in their last 10.