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@  Losthief : (02 October 2015 - 02:24 AM) tks jg
@  thejohnnygold : (29 September 2015 - 05:16 AM) FYI, it was media day today. Interviews are up at NBA.com
@  slick shoes : (23 September 2015 - 06:37 PM) kind of late in the day but NBATV is broadcasting classis Rockets games all day today.
@  SadLakerFan : (16 September 2015 - 04:37 AM) Man, as a Laker fan, I'm learning how little you care about the off season when your team sucks. Anyway, a quick moment to remember Moses. Still remember watching the 81 team as a kid - losing record, NBA Finals. I would have cried w/joy if they could have beaten the Celtics.
@  jorgeaam : (15 September 2015 - 08:30 PM) http://bleacherrepor...ist-after-crash
@  jorgeaam : (15 September 2015 - 08:30 PM) So to celebrate his new contract, Montrezl Harrell saved someone's life on monday
@  thejohnnygold : (14 September 2015 - 04:36 PM) A good article from Blinebury talking about when Hakeem and Moses used to play in the park. LINK
@  rockets best... : (14 September 2015 - 02:29 AM) I agree totally. I got to watch his Rocket days and the man was a hell of a player. BIG MO R.I.P.
@  Mario Peña : (13 September 2015 - 05:24 PM) Sad to see Moses pass. I don't remember watching him as a Rocket but I do remember his Philly and Hawks teams. He was the perfect man to mentor Dream. It's a very sad day for his family and friends and there are many.
@  majik19 : (12 September 2015 - 09:01 PM) i just saw a post wishing Yao Ming a happy 35th birthday... am I the only one whose mind is blown that he's only 35?
@  cointurtlemoose : (08 September 2015 - 01:17 AM) aaaah, thanks jorge
@  jorgeaam : (08 September 2015 - 12:21 AM) Love it how Hinkie and Morey always target the same players, but hoping he isn't another Covington
@  thejohnnygold : (08 September 2015 - 12:03 AM) Christian Wood has signed with Philly
@  jorgeaam : (07 September 2015 - 10:32 PM) If I'm not wrong, he hasn't been waived yet, they have until october 4th to do that
@  cointurtlemoose : (07 September 2015 - 05:39 PM) Anyone else surprised that Kostas hasn't gotten picked up by anyone yet? I wanna see that guy play somewhere
@  redfaithful : (05 September 2015 - 10:48 PM) Llull line from today loss to Serbia: 30MIN 1-10PG, 0-5 3PG, 4-4FT 6AST, 1TO, 4REB, +/- -11
@  Losthief : (03 September 2015 - 02:27 AM) this dude's gun fired and all he got a misdemeanor at bush lol: http://abc13.com/new...ush-iah/815795/
@  Losthief : (03 September 2015 - 02:26 AM) theres more articles all over, but the jist is houston (and texas) doesn't really arrest for it, they just recommend you leave it in your car when they catch it. So seems dwight got lucky he was in texas and not cali or the NE.
@  Losthief : (03 September 2015 - 02:22 AM) honestly we should just be glad they caught it...
@  Losthief : (03 September 2015 - 02:21 AM) response: http://nymag.com/dai...n_airplane.html

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Fighting for Seeding

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#21 rockets best fan

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    glad you're on board, but I been on this boat since it left

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 09:13 PM

This LA game makes me nervous.  The Lakers are built to beat us.  They thrive on the three ball (and so far do it well) which keeps them from the teeth of our defense and in the soft, pink underbelly.  While their defense is not a concern, they can get hot and shoot us out of the building, plus you know Jordan Hill is looking to make a statement both because Houston didn't want him and to show that Howard isn't needed in LA. 

I agree the LA game makes me nervous, but not the Laker game .....the Clipper game. the way we got our butts spanked in LA, I think we need to send an early season message to them. I think we will fair much better with Beverly on the court this time around


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you can only warn a man that the bridge is out.....if he keeps driving he's on his own B)


#22 thejohnnygold

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 11:16 PM

Congrats JohnnyGold on your 2000th post!

 

Thanks!  Never thought I had that much to say about the Rockets and NBA basketball, but here we are :P


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#23 Drew in Abilene

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 07:14 PM

As the sample size increases, the Western Conference playoff picture will begin to take shape. There's still a lot of basketball to play, though, and with less than ten games played so far, there are several anomalies in the top spots for the West. (I'm looking at you, Phoenix!)

 

With that said, another week means another update for the fight for the top seeds. Losses to the Lakers and Clippers certainly dampened the spirits of the Houston faithful, and a grind-it-out win against middling Toronto did not exactly inspire confidence. Rotation questions, players who weren't at 100%, and a baffling inability to shoot the deep ball have brought some of the more optimistic fans back to something closer to reality.

 

For other competition in the West, the outlook has been quite cheery. San Antonio has raced out to a 7-1 start, fueling speculation that Duncan may have used a magic lamp or collected the seven dragon balls to wish for eternal youth. Parker remains excellent and underrated. Role players are stepping up and new addition Belinelli looks like another solid pick up. The Thunder joyously welcomed Westbrook back weeks sooner than anticipated, and have only dropped one of their six games thus far. Both look likely to retain their places at the top of the standings for playoff seeding, at least at this juncture. 

 

The Clippers and Warriors join the Rockets as potential challengers for the top spots, but none of the three have looked as solid as their fan bases would have hoped. Each is currently a game or two over .500, but have submitted some lackluster performances, especially against top flight competition.

 

Finally, Memphis also exists. The Grizzlies retain most of the core that took them to the conference finals last year, but also do not seem likely to seriously challenge for a top two seed. Adding Mike Miller certainly gives them added shooting punch for when the postseason begins, but as constructed now, they seem unlikely to win enough to earn the 1 or 2 seed. If they continue to display these signs, they may be dropped from future updates.

 

So there's the weekly Top 2 Seed Chase update. Below are the current records, along with when they'll be facing some tough competition. (NTG stands for no tough games. Not that teams couldn't lose a game against a weaker opponent, but no games a noteworthy as difficult challenges)

 

Rockets: 5-3

Nov. 13th at Knicks

 

Spurs: 7-1

NTG

 

Clippers: 5-3

Nov. 13th vs Thunder, Nov. 16th vs Nets, Nov. 18th vs Grizzlies

 

Thunder: 5-1

Nov. 13th at Thunder, Nov. 14th at Warriors

 

Warriors: 4-3

Nov. 12th vs Pistons, Nov. 14th vs Thunder

 

Grizzlies: 3-4

Nov. 18th at Clippers


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#24 Drew in Abilene

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 10:33 PM

Rockets fans have been treated to a week full of excitement. Two overtime games, a waved-off buzzer beater, a dominant win over the Nuggets, and the discontentment of Asik have dominated the headlines for Houston faithful. With all of these developments, it's time to evaluate the state of the upper echelon of the West.

 

Despite a disappointing game dropped to the upstart 76ers, the week has seen positive progress. The Denver win in particular showed great signs that the team is improving. Howard knocked down important free throws, shooters were hitting from deep, and Houston won against a team they should beat, and did so without sweating it out towards the end of the game. Even without Asik and Smith, the Rockets' offense looks strong and the defense is improving.

 

San Antonio has showed no signs  of slowing down, despite a decrease in productivity and minutes for Duncan. Leonard has raised his game significantly, as many predicted he would following his breakout series versus the Heat. Parker has reminded pundits why he was in the conversation for MVP last year, even if that conversation began and ended in South Beach. Role players continue to step up.  Their winning ways are not the product of feasting on cellar-dwellers, either. This season, San Antonio has already tallied wins over the likes of Memphis and Golden State, with their lone loss coming to the red-hot Blazers. At this point, the Spurs look like the best bet to emerge as the top seed in the West.

 

Though they fell to the Spurs, Golden State have recently put together a winning streak of their own. Four straight wins, even against less than stellar competition, is nothing to downplay. With their recent gains, the Warriors have crept onto the rung below San Antonio in the race to avoid a difficult 1st round opponent. I still doubt they have the staying power to maintain this lofty perch above the likes of the Clippers, Thunder, and Rockets, but Golden State is proving that they are a force in the West. Pending continued good health, of course.

 

After looking at the Thunder so far, I noticed a subplot that has emerged in the last few weeks that isn't getting much airtime: OKC has not beaten any good teams yet. If you had to rank the ten teams the Thunder have played thus far, their three losses come to the three best of those teams, and the only three I would consider a lock for the playoffs. The Timberwolves, Clippers, and Warriors all beat the Thunder, who have played a number of close games with teams they should be putting away easily. For a team picked by many to find their way back to the finals, this trend is worth watching.

 

Remember when pundits were excited about how Doc Rivers was going to transform DeAndre Jordan into a Defensive Player of the Year? Yeah, about that... The Clippers are still sterling on the offensive end, as teams helmed by Chris Paul are expected to be. Flanked by the likes of Jordan, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick, Los Angeles looks like they will continue to dominate one side of the ball, and perhaps shore up the defensive end a bit. Wins against Houston, OKC, and Golden State have proved that L.A. can compete with the best. Losses against the Lakers and Magic show they still have a lot of room to improve.

 

Apparently, Memphis just needed some bulletin board material to light a fire under them. After I suggested that they might not be worthy of inclusion in this thread, they rifled off three straight wins, including a victory over their perennial first round opponents from L.A. I'm still skeptical about whether they can realistically compete for a top two seed, but they can stay in this thread. For now.

 

Two teams that were not included in the thread originally are the Trailblazers and Timberwolves, both of whom have raced out to strong starts. If they are still challenging for one of the top two seeds in the next few weeks, the may just merit being included in the weekly breakdowns. For now, I'm under the assumption that hot starts will taper off as the season continues.

 

So there's the weekly Top 2 Seed Chase update. Below are the current records, along with when they'll be facing some tough competition. (NTG stands for no tough games. Not that teams couldn't lose a game against a weaker opponent, but no games a noteworthy as difficult challenges)

 

Rockets: 7-4

Nov. 20th at Mavs, Nov. 23rd vs Timberwolves, Nov. 25th at Grizzlies

 

Spurs: 9-1

Nov 22nd at Grizzlies, Nov. 25th at Pelicans

 

Clippers: 7-4

Nov. 20th at Timberwolves, Nov. 21st at Thunder, Nov. 24th vs Bulls

 

Thunder: 7-3

Nov. 21st vs Clippers,

 

Warriors: 8-3

Nov. 20th vs Grizzlies, Nov. 23rd vs Trailblazers

 

Grizzlies: 6-5

Nov. 20th at Warriors, Nov. 22nd vs Spurs, Nov. 25th vs Rockets


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#25 NorEastern

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    Posted 20 November 2013 - 12:08 AM

    I personally really like the information contained in these posts. Keep up the good work!


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    #26 Drew in Abilene

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    Posted 28 November 2013 - 01:27 AM

    After a slower start to the season the many fans would have liked, the Rockets have begun build some chemistry and momentum. Since the previous update, Houston has won three of four games, including a come-from-behind victory over the Grizzlies. With Terrence Jones looking like a viable starter at the power forward position and Omer Asik returning to the lineup to fuel the comeback versus Memphis, the team seems to be coming together well.

     

    Sitting at 10-5 for the season, the Rockets have reasserted themselves as a viable candidate for the 1 or 2 seed. Unfortunately, Portland looks to be more and more legit. Even if the boys from H-Town secure the second seed, it looks like it will still leave them battling a difficult opponent. With that said, I still think it's worthwhile to keep up with the jockeying for seeding. So, without further ado, here are this week's updates.

     

    San Antonio continues to dominate their competition. Duncan laughs in the face of Father Time, Parker remains excellent, and Popp is Popp. There may be a year when the Spurs fall apart and break up the bonds of basketball. But it is not this year.

     

    Portland is just a half game behind the Spurs at 13-2. I watched them lose to Phoenix in their first game of the season, and felt really bad for my friend who roots for them. He had been telling me how excellent they'd be, and I watched his disbelief turn to anger, then anger turn to sadness. Yet they have completely turned things around since that first flop, leading me to include them on this thread.

     

    9-3 Oklahoma City sits in the third seed spot, ready to move up if/when the Trailblazers cool down a bit. With Russell Westbrook back and on the mend and Kevin Durant doing what he does, they look to continue their winning way from the past two seasons. I'm still of the mind that they will drop off some without someone poised to take the minutes/points allocated to the Harden/Martin slot, but they are proving to still be formidable. We'll see how that works out in the playoffs.

     

    Despite two wins over Houston, the Clippers sit at 10-5 with the Rockets. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are a strong front-court duo on offense, but the defense is lacking. I'll be interested to see how the season plays out for them, but even more interested to see if Doc Rivers can help them succeed in the playoffs.

     

    Golden State are one game back of the Rockets and Clippers. Injuries have already reared their ugly head for the Warriors, which was one of the big question marks for a team seemingly on the rise. Their whole season hinges on their stars making good on the flashes of greatness they've shown in the past while exorcising the injury demons that have haunted them.

     

    Memphis wasn't looking like a team that could realistically win a top seed in the loaded West, even before Marc Gasol was hurt. With their reigning Defensive Player of the Year and the crux of their offense shelved for a month or two, maybe more, Memphis has officially lost my vote of confidence. They'll probably still make the post-season, and won't be a team anyone wants to play in the first round, but I'm not going to waste time pretending like they'll challenge the top teams for best or second best record.

     

    So there's an update of how teams are faring so far in the West. Looking forward to some good games over the next week, including some difficult tests for top teams in our conference.

     

    Rockets: 10-5

    Nov. 27th vs Hawks, Nov. 30th at Spurs

     

    Spurs: 13-1

    Nov. 27th at Thunder, Nov. 30th vs Rockets, Dec. 2nd vs Hawks

     

    Trailblazers: 13-2

    Dec. 2nd vs. Pacers

     

    Thunder: 9-3

    Nov. 27th vs Spurs, Nov. 29th vs Warriors, Dec. 1st vs Timberwolves

     

    Clippers: 10-5

    Dec. 1st vs Pacers

     

    Warriors: 9-6

    Nov. 27th at Mavs, Nov. 29th at Thunder


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    #27 Mason Khamvilay

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    Posted 28 November 2013 - 02:14 AM

    I don't think we're ready for the Spurs yet, but I hope I'm wrong.


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    #28 redfaithful

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    Posted 01 December 2013 - 09:26 AM

    Hollinger power rankings (http://espn.go.com/n...r/powerrankings) need some time to warm up at the beginning of the season, but we're past that stage, so they hold some interest.

     

    After tonight's W in SA, the Rockets are second in the west, and closed the gap from SA from almost 6 points to just over 3. Looking backwards, the Clippers are 2 points behind, but I expect OKC to move past them when the affect of the games they played without Westbrook goes down. Minny somehow much higher than they're record and eye test suggest, Portland losing height, followed by Denver and only then the Warriors.


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    #29 Drew in Abilene

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    Posted 04 December 2013 - 07:44 PM

    Imagine, if you will, a world in which the Houston Rockets played in the Eastern Conference. Sitting at 13-6 would be enough to firmly establish them as a top three team in the conference, and one of the only teams with a legitimate opportunity to make noise beyond the first round of the playoffs. After Indiana, Miami, and Houston, no other East teams are above .500 as of this post. What a different world it would be...

     

    Now that the wishful thinking portion is concluded, it's time to focus in on what's happening in our actual conference, henceforth known as "The Loaded West."

     

    In the past week, the Rockets finished off the month of November with strong wins over the Hawks, Nets, and Spurs, then began December with a frustrating loss to the Jazz. Even with the taste of the Utah loss still stuck in my mouth, the biggest takeaway from the week that was has to be outperforming San Antonio. It has been noted that Portland and San Antonio both have records of 15-3 to tower atop the standings in The Loaded West, but neither could prevail against Houston. 

     

    Injuries have forced the Rockets to switch up line-ups for most of the season, and this week was no different. Despite an oft-tweaked rotation and difficulties staying healthy, Houston has fortunately avoided the long-term injuries that have scuttled Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and others. For now, injuries have been short inconveniences that have allowed bench players to absorb more minutes. Folks like Aaron Brooks and Terrence Jones have stepped up and proven that the Rockets are a deep team with talent to get them through minor setbacks.

     

    Is it time to take Portland seriously as a contender to wrest control of The Loaded West from the teams more widely viewed as championship-caliber? Their win against Indiana points towards yes. While I'm not yet ready to speculate on how they'll do in the playoffs, I have been very impressed with their season so far. Since I've got them as a team for League Pass, rest assured that I'll be keeping my eye on them.

     

    The Spurs look excellent, even with a loss to the Rockets. They've done a tremendous job of beating the teams they should beat, and grinding out wins over evenly matched opponents. With lower minutes and stats for Duncan, the question is whether this is just the Spurs resting a cornerstone until the games matter more, or if Tim has finally lost a step. Until there's more evidence, I'm leaning towards it's just the early season doldrums for him, and that he'll come alive come the playoffs.

     

    Oklahoma City keeps pulling out close games. Westbrook hits a three as time's about to expire to win another? Of course. They haven't played as many games as most teams so far, which is probably good for them since Westbrook's injury and the subsequent easing back into things would have been complicated by a really taxing schedule. The problem with not having as many games on the front end is that it will catch up with them eventually. Will their youth and athleticism pull them through when the back-to-backs start piling up? Maybe, but look for the Thunder to lose some momentum as the season progresses.

     

    The major issue for the Clippers from the last week is losing J.J. Reddick for six weeks. He had been lights out for L.A., as Rockets fans surely remember with no fondness. His off-the-ball shooting from deep has really complemented Chris Paul and the Clipper offense, and they'll miss his ability to knock down threes. It will be interesting to watch them try to cope with his absence. 

     

    Golden State has also missed a new acquisition, since Andre Iguodala has missed time for them. At 11-8, they are tied with Dallas for the final two seeds. As they get healthier, it's reasonable to guess that they'll improve their record, especially when they get the chance to feast on weak Eastern conference foes. Still, with the likes of Denver, Dallas, Memphis vying for a spot in the postseason, and even the Lakers, Suns, Pelicans, and Timberwolves lurking at the edge of the playoff picture, few teams in The Loaded West can afford to lose any of their top players for significant chunks of time. If I were a Warriors fan, I wouldn't be panicking by any means. But I would have a vague sense of unease.

     

    What games looking challenging in the week ahead? Below are the toughest challenges that these contenders for top seeding will be facing.

     

    Rockets: 13-6

    Dec. 6th vs Warriors

     

    Spurs: 15-3

    Dec. 4th at Timberwolves, Dec. 7th vs Pacers

     

    Trailblazers: 15-3

    Dec. 4th vs. Thunder, Dec. 7th vs Mavericks

     

    Thunder: 13-3

    Dec. 4th at Trailblazers, Dec. 6th at Pelicans, Dec. 8th vs. Pacers, Dec. 10th at Hawks

     

    Clippers: 12-6

    Dec. 4th at Hawks,  Dec. 5th at Grizzlies

     

    Warriors: 11-8

    Dec. 6th at Rockets, Dec. 7th at Grizzlies


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    #30 Mason Khamvilay

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    Posted 04 December 2013 - 07:48 PM

    Hollinger power rankings (http://espn.go.com/n...r/powerrankings) need some time to warm up at the beginning of the season, but we're past that stage, so they hold some interest.

     

    After tonight's W in SA, the Rockets are second in the west, and closed the gap from SA from almost 6 points to just over 3. Looking backwards, the Clippers are 2 points behind, but I expect OKC to move past them when the affect of the games they played without Westbrook goes down. Minny somehow much higher than they're record and eye test suggest, Portland losing height, followed by Denver and only then the Warriors.

    Weird. We moved up to 3rd despite losing to the Jazz! haha

     

    To explain before people start bashing the computerized rankings, win margin plays a big factor into the rankings and several of our losses were extremely close. Miami on the other hand have been losing by more, and their schedule has been easier (.429 compared to .491).


    Edited by 2016Champions, 04 December 2013 - 07:50 PM.

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    #31 rockets best fan

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    Posted 04 December 2013 - 11:45 PM

    thanks for the update DA


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    you can only warn a man that the bridge is out.....if he keeps driving he's on his own B)


    #32 Drew in Abilene

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    Posted 10 December 2013 - 10:06 PM

    As the weeks fly by, it's odd to think that the regular season is over 20% completed. It seems like yesterday that the Houston faithful were gathered around their Twitter feeds, anxiously awaiting news on whether Dwight Howard might actually choose the Rockets over the Lakers and 30 million extra dollars. Months later, the Rockets are the proud owners of a 15-7 record and wins against the best teams in The Loaded West.

     

    A disappointing loss to the upstart Suns has been followed by strong wins over Golden State and Orlando. A combination of good defense and abysmal shooting gave away a winnable game to Phoenix, but the loss seemed to spur something in the Rockets. The entire team, including Harden, stepped up the intensity on defense during the following two games to great effect.

     

    Along with better defense, Parsons' return was another catalyst for a return to winning ways. With a slew of challenging games ahead of them, Houston will certainly be glad to have hum back, and will anxiously await Lin and Asik becoming available soon as well. The next two weeks will be crucial to defining this team in the NBA season narrative: if the Rockets continue to play strong defense and hit their shots, a 6-2 or even 7-1 record against some elite teams could thrust Houston into the national spotlight. On the other hand, a poor showing could reinforce the idea that this team still needs much more time to coalesce, and that they are still a year away.

     

    Despite losing to Dallas on a last second shot by Monta Ellis, Portland remains at the top of the standings in The Loaded West. Their easier schedule towards the beginning of the season has toughened a bit, but wins against the Pacers and Thunder have quieted some of the skeptics who were attributing early success primarily due to opponents' weakness. Aldridge continues to dominate, and is proving why so many suitors were inquiring about him when he seemed dissatisfied with the Trailblazers. Such thoughts are long gone now, and Portland looks more and more like a legitimate top tier team.

     

    The Spurs and Thunder appear to be what most predicted them to be: both are talented teams with strongly shaped identities. Both have dominated at times, while on certain nights look very beatable. They're both in the annoying habit of pulling out close wins. The past few seasons have taught us that both have the capacity to win a lot of regular season games, as well as a good shot at going deep in the playoffs. The Spurs have already begun answering the perennial questions about their age, while the Thunder are filling in the gaps admirably after losing a major scorer for the second off-season in a row. Both of these teams have the pedigree to challenge for a top seed, and anything less than a conference title will probably disappoint them.

     

    The Clippers, hailed by some as the big winners of the off-season for retaining Chris Paul, adding shooters, and bringing in Doc Rivers to coach, have not looked strong these past five games. Winners of only two of those contests, falling to the Pacers and the Hawks shouldn't be cause for two much concern, though Atlanta isn't exactly impressing as of late. The embarrassment of losing to a reeling Cleveland, on the other hand, was not pretty. The defense that was supposed to improve dramatically under Rivers' watchful eye has been lackluster, at best. Obviously, it's a long season and Los Angeles has plenty of time to rectify the situation. But the early returns are not nearly as promising as the Clippers would have hoped.

     

    Golden State has dealt with some significant injury issues as of late, but the media darlings from Oakland do not seem to be serious challengers for the top seeds as of yet. At 12-10, their talent has not won as much as Warriors' fans would have liked, but they have shown some flashes of the dangerous team that sent Denver home early last year and challenged San Antonio far more than the overmatched Grizzlies would in the conference finals. Unfortunately for Golden State, these moments have more often than not occurred against the dregs of the league, as opposed to some of the juggernauts they've faced thus far. In order to be seen as a real threat in The Loaded West, the Warriors will have to prove their mettle against the big boys, a feat they have not been up to often in this young season.

     

    With the entire conference looking more and more loaded, I think my initial though process may not be as helpful as hoped. A one or two seed probably won't ensure an easy first round series. But fighting for top seeds remains important, because in The Loaded West, any small advantage must be seized if a team wants to progress to later rounds. The difference between a Game 7 in Houston or one in Oklahoma City or San Antonio could be crucial. With that in mind, I'll continue to update this thread, with the hope that it's as helpful or enjoyable for y'all as it is for me.

     

    Rockets: 15-7

    Dec. 12th at Trailblazers, Dec. 13th at Warriors

     

    Spurs: 15-4

    Dec. 16th at Clippers

     

    Trailblazers: 18-4

    Dec. 12th vs Rockets, Dec. 15th at Pistons

     

    Thunder: 15-4

    Dec. 10th at Hawks, Dec. 11th at Grizzlies, Dec. 17th at Nuggets

     

    Clippers: 14-8

    Dec. 16th vs Spurs

     

    Warriors: 12-10

    Dec. 11th vs Mavericks, Dec. 15th vs. Rockets


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    #33 Drew in Abilene

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    Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:54 PM

    Sorry for not updating as often as hoped over the last few weeks, but the holidays and travel have kept me busy, along with finally attending a Rockets game. Since I'm still on the road, this is going to be a short post.

     

    The Rockets have not exactly been stellar since the last update, but a strong win over San Antonio coupled with a comeback victory over Memphis have many Rockets fans thinking positive. A few letdowns like the loss against Houston have dropped the Spurs to third in The Loaded West, but wins while resting their best players strongly suggest that San Antonio will remain a dominant force once the postseason begins. The upstart Trailblazers have continued their impressive start to the year, and have held on to win lots of close games to retain their place at the top of the standings. The preseason darlings from L.A. have not fared as well as their fans expected, and though they have a respectable record, their championship hopes look less bright than many predicted. Golden State has continued to battle injuries, and look like a team struggling to live up to the stellar performance of last season's playoffs. Finally, the Thunder have been on a tear leading to the second best record in the conference, but just lost Westbrook to his third knee surgery in eight months.

     

    All in all, it looks like The Loaded West continues to look deep and threatening. Teams like Phoenix, Minnesota, Dallas, and Denver are jockeying for position in the playoff race, and the Grizzlies and Lakers remain flawed but dangerous. I, for one, am pretty happy with the Rockets' 20-11 record so far, especially when considering the roster upheaval and injuries they've sustained. Despite early losses to the Clippers who have the same number of wins and losses as Houston, I firmly believe that the Rockets are one of the best four teams in The Loaded West, and look forward to seeing what happens when they start playing in the postseason.

     

    Rockets: 20-11

    Dec. 28th vs Pelicans, Dec. 29th at Thunder

     

    Spurs: 23-7

    Jan. 4th at Clippers

     

    Trailblazers: 24-5

    Dec. 28th vs Heat, Dec. 30th at Pelicans, Dec. 31st at Thunder

     

    Thunder: 24-5

    Dec. 29th vs Rockets, Dec. 31st vs Trailblazers, Jan. 4th at Timberwolves

     

    Clippers: 20-11

    Dec. 30th vs Suns, Jan. 3rd at Mavericks, Jan. 4th vs Spurs

     

    Warriors: 18-13

    Jan. 2nd at Heat, Jan. 3rd at Hawks


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    #34 redfaithful

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    Posted 10 January 2014 - 08:42 AM

    It would be decided by injuries and consistency, and after OKC's loss last night, SA seem to be the only team having both (Pop...), so they'll probably take a 1-2 spot. Other than that it's quite even between the 5 other teams up here.


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    #35 Drew in Abilene

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    Posted 22 January 2014 - 12:02 AM

    The season is more than halfway over, so it's time to revisit the fight for playoff seeding in The Loaded West. For the Rockets, the season has not yet met some of the lofty expectations placed upon them after the Howard signing. But after a drubbing of the Trailblazers last night, Houston moved closer to a record with twice as many wins as losses. With Patrick Beverley and Chandler Parsons back from injury, things look a little brighter than they did a few days ago after an embarrassing loss to the Thunder after rushing out to a first half lead.

     

    San Antonio does what they do. Despite a record buoyed by wins against middling teams and the dregs of the league, the Spurs are right on schedule. Their veteran stalwarts are getting enough rest to make pundits believe they will be healthy for the playoffs. A bad record against the top teams in the league, including two losses to Houston, is not the end of the world for San Antonio. Yet if this trend continues, questions will arise whether this trend is due only to not valuing regular season games or whether the Spurs are finally on the downward slope.

     

    With Russell Westbrook on the sideline, the Thunder still look like a top tier team. Kevin Durant has upped his game substantially, and is knocking on the door of the MVP trophy LeBron has kept from his grasp for so many years. They have kept on winning, including some excellent wins against top flight competition. Many have tapped them as the likely challenger for the Finals, and if Westbrook returns to near 100% I wouldn't disagree with picking them to match up against Indiana or Miami.

     

    The Trailblazers have also looked great this year, despite a shellacking at the hands of the Rockets last night. Aldridge and Lilliard, along with Batum and Matthews, have pushed a team that missed the playoffs last year into the upper echelon of The Loaded West. They may not be able to maintain the scorching start that dropped jaws across the NBA, but they look to be a player after the regular season, probably beyond the first round.

     

    The Clippers were considered to be one of the favorites to make the finals after trading for a new head coach in Doc Rivers. While there's still the possibility that they will pull everything together, Chris Paul's injury combined with underwhelming defensive improvements have left L.A.'s best team in a similar position as the team which stole their cross-town rival's big man: not meeting lofty expectations. The highlight reel dunks are still prevalent and the commercials are ever-present, but this team looks bound for an exit before the conference finals.

     

    Apparently, I did a poor job of gauging my own dislike of the Warriors at the beginning of the season. With every splashy three pointer, with every late-game winner, and with every gushing report from national pundits my loathing for Golden State grows. I find it frustrating that their injuries woes are played up while Houston's are diminished, their wins celebrated while Houston's are ignored, and their team chemistry lauded while Houston's is picked apart. I don't care how entertaining their games are, especially now that Iguodala has returned, I want them to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs. Preferably by a team wearing red and yellow.

     

    Finally, a programming note: It's pretty clear that the good guys won't be earning a 1 or 2 seed this season. So be it. Instead of continuing to commit time to guessing which games will be tough for the Rockets and their competition, I'll be ranking which teams currently in the playoff picture Houston would most like to avoid and which they would prefer. 1 means this team would be a worst case scenario match-up, 7 is a team for which we'd be licking our chops. Feel free to comment if you think I've got these rankings out of order!

     

    Rockets: 28-15 (5th Seed)

    1. Thunder: 31-10 (3rd Seed)
    2. Spurs: 32-9 (1st Seed)
    3. Trailblazers: 31-10 (2nd Seed)
    4. Warriors: 26-17 (6th Seed)
    5. Clippers: 29-14 (4th Seed)
    6. Mavericks: 25-18 (7th Seed)
    7. Suns: 23-17 (8th Seed)

    For me, Kevin Durant is the best reason to have a healthy respect for the Thunder. Houston doesn't have a player who can shut him down, but that's in part due to such a player not currently existing. I flirted with dropping the Spurs to the three spot, but can't bring myself to bet against them in favor of Portland's still-shaky bench unit. So far, the Rockets have proven to be more than a match for both of them in the regular season. I already mentioned I'm deeply against the Warriors, but their shooting coupled with Iggy's defense gives me pause. I'm still not super high on the Clippers, and think Dwight Howard would demolish Jordan in a series. The Mavericks are still dangerous, and even with Jones improving significantly, it's hard to imagine him slowing down Dirk. Phoenix certainly isn't a lock for the playoffs, but their up-tempo style of play is Houston's bread and butter.


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    #36 Buckko

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      Posted 22 January 2014 - 02:59 AM

      I share the exact same opinions with you on GS, but it's alright each time we annihilate them. Now realistically we are not going to be matched up with the 7&8 and 1&2 seeds in the first round because our seeding shouldn't be that good or bad. Thus our first round series will lie in seeds 3&6 or 4&5 and our opponent will be LA, GS, or trailblazers(when any of their starters hit the injury bug, they will free fall through the standings because they rely on them so much) I believe we can beat GS and Portland easily but LA could prove a challenge. That being said I would much rather prefer 4&5 and match up with the spurs in the second round which I believe we can take, thus eluding us from OKC's wrath until the conference finals.
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      #37 Drew in Abilene

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      Posted 22 January 2014 - 04:44 PM

      I agree that we're likely to end up somewhere in the 3-6 seed range. I ranked all the teams to imagine what later rounds look like. I know it's wishful thinking, but I'd sure be appreciative if someone were to knock the Thunder out of the playoffs before we had to face them. Then again, if Houston took out OKC, that'd definitely earn some respect, and the series would be must watch for any NBA fan.


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      #38 Drew in Abilene

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      Posted 30 January 2014 - 11:57 PM

      Houston's roller coaster of a season continued over the past week. Back to back losses to the surging Grizzlies inspired panic midst some of the Rockets' faithful. Lack of scoring combined with an inability to match up with Memphis' bigs certainly are a cause for concern. Yet those two losses were followed by short-handed wins over San Antonio and Dallas. With Harden on the bench in a suit, sitting out with four other players, the undermanned Rockets outplayed the Spurs and outlasted the Mavericks. If watching Howard sink free throw after free throw as Poppovich tried to reclaim control through nefarious means was icing on the cake, then his monster dunk in traffic to keep Cuban's team at bay late in the fourth was the cherry on top.

       

      Houston has played more games than any other team this season. While this frantic schedule has certainly hampered their ability to rest, work on things in practice, and stay healthy, the rest of the season should be slightly less jam-packed. And while I'd rather a well-balanced calendar to avoid scheduled losses (Every time we play the Thunder!), it will be nice to be better rested towards the end of the season heading into the playoffs.

       

      The Thunder look really good. Seriously. Really stinkin' good. And this is without Westbrook. Brooks seems to have finally read a NBA column, watched Countdown, or checked a message board, because he sat Perkins early in their game against the Heat when they'd fallen way behind early. Turns out that everybody was right! OKC went on a blistering run and took down the defending champs on their home court. Jackson and Lamb are both stepping up, and they look like the best team in the NBA. 

       

      San Antonio, on the other hand, is trending downwards. Apparently Manu is too old to dunk without injuring himself, and will be on the pine next to Leonard for the next few weeks. This is a veteran team that won't make too much out of regular season struggles, but at some point they have to ask themselves, "Can we just turn it on in the postseason, or is this who we are?" They're dangerous and disciplined enough to handle teams that don't have their level of talent, but losses against top-flight teams keep piling up. Even if they can turn it back on for the post-season, losses now could result in a second round series versus the Oklahoman juggernaut...

       

      First among the tier below the Thunder and Spurs, the Trailblazers are still playing exceptionally well. Despite recent stumbles against the Grizzlies, Warriors, Thunder, and Rockets, they have maintained a place near the top of the rankings. Lack of solid bench depth, especially for interior players, has played a role in their cooling, but their starting line-up remains one of the most deadly in the league. Portland looks to be one of the teams poised to take advantage of injuries to San Antonio.

       

      When your shooting stinks, and you've got injuries... Who ya' gonna call? Turkoglu! Wait, what? The Clippers needed extra scoring punch, so they decided to bring in a man who should be writing "Thank you!" cards to Dwight Howard daily for his huge payday back in Orlando. Could the Clippers get healthy, play some defense, and coalesce into a legit contender? Sure, stranger things have happened. But the problems they face in L.A. are not all going to be solved by bringing in a guy who was paid to stay away from his team earlier this season. Then again, Bynum's still available, right?

       

      Go away, Golden State. You lost to the Wizards and dropped below Phoenix in the standings. Why don't you all just call in sick for the rest of the season? Actually, if you could simply continue to slide back in the standing, while still gutting out some wins against Portland and other ahead of Houston in the standings, that'd be great. #fullofthemselvessquad

       

      Phoenix is somehow still climbing the charts as an unforeseen challenger for the low playoff seeds. Truth be told, I haven't paid attention to them much this season. In lieu of real analysis, here's a weird question: did Phoenix actually win the Steve Nash trade?

       

      Dallas is clinging to the eighth seed with a most tenuous of grasps. Tim Duncan must have let slip to Dirk where the Texas fountain of youth is, because he's putting up numbers. Even in a losing effort, 30+ points and 15+ boards looks really good.

       

      Finally, Memphis apparently has resuscitated their season, now that Marc Gasol has returned. They have now emerged victorious in nine of their last ten contests, including back-to-back beatings of the Rockets. If any team outside the playoff picture is to muscle their way into the postseason, my money would be on the Grizzlies.

       

      Rockets: 31-17 (5th Seed)

      1. Thunder: 37-10 (1 Seed)
      2. Spurs: 33-13 (2 Seed)
      3. Trailblazers: 33-13 (2 Seed)
      4. Clippers: 33-15 (4 Seed)
      5. Warriors: 27-19 (7 Seed)
      6. Grizzlies: 24-20 (9 Seed)
      7. Mavericks: 26-21 (8 Seed)
      8. Suns: 27-18 (6 Seed)

      Last night's dismantling of the Heat are reason enough for the Thunder to headline this list again. If the Spurs are trying to lull me into a false sense of security, I'm not buying it. Their execution, especially in the playoffs, makes me hesitant to drop them lower than two, even after beating them in all three meetings thus far. I want to move Portland down the list some, but I need to stop having nightmares about Aldridge long-range jumpers and Lillard game-winners first. Am I underrating the Clippers? For some reason, I'm not very scared of a team that embarrassed us early this season. Maybe I just need to see Houston play them again to get a better feel for the match up. Part of me wants to bump the Warriors up in these rankings, but I can't stand the thought of sending any sort of positive thoughts their direction. The Grizzlies, despite being on the outside looking in right now, scare me a lot more than some other teams. Asik, if you're reading this, please play again soon! If the Rockets could somehow play the Mavericks in the playoffs, I'd love to watch an over-matched Dalembert try to hold off Dwight while Cuban falls into histrionics. And finally, the Suns. If you make it to the playoffs, good luck... You'll need it if you're facing off against the buzzsaw that is OKC.


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      #39 rocketrick

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        Posted 31 January 2014 - 02:44 AM

        Good stuff, Drew in Abilene! Thanks for the well thought out post / article.

        I think the Rockets could overcome Portland in the standings. Portland's main deficiencies are lack of bench depth after their top 6 and poor defense play thus far this season. They got off to a blistering start this season but have fallen off a bit since then.

        Can the Rockets surpass the Spurs for a higher seed? It's not out of the realm of possibilities, in my opinion, especially with all the injuries the Spurs are dealing with. Of course, the injury bug issues are well known to Rockets fans as the Rockets continually have to play different rotations on the floor due to key players missing games. Still, with the Rockets the owner of the tiebreaker with the Spurs, it could get interesting down the stretch.

        The Clippers clearly outplayed the Rockets in both of the earlier matchups this season. It will be interesting to see how the Rockets match up with them now that Terrance Jones is beginning to step up his game and especially since the Rockets have completely dismantled the "twin towers of sorts" lineup with D12 and Asik thanks in most part to Asik's continued injury issues (although some on this board do question Asik's heart at this point in the season).

        Ideally, the Rockets could squeeze out a top 4 seed so they could be in better position with home court advantage. Still, I think who the Rockets might matchup against in the playoffs might be even more important than whether or not they can earn home court advantage in the first round. For instance, Memphis seems to have our number. I would prefer to avoid them. Maybe the Clippers as well. The Rockets certainly don't want to see OKC in the first round again this season but as long as the Rockets continue to win that shouldn't be a concern.

        Lots more basketball yet to be played this season!

        Edited by rocketrick, 31 January 2014 - 02:44 AM.

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        #40 smeggysmeg

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          Posted 31 January 2014 - 05:00 AM

          Can the Rockets surpass the Spurs for a higher seed? It's not out of the realm of possibilities, in my opinion, especially with all the injuries the Spurs are dealing with. Of course, the injury bug issues are well known to Rockets fans as the Rockets continually have to play different rotations on the floor due to key players missing games. Still, with the Rockets the owner of the tiebreaker with the Spurs, it could get interesting down the stretch.

          Ideally, the Rockets could squeeze out a top 4 seed so they could be in better position with home court advantage. Still, I think who the Rockets might matchup against in the playoffs might be even more important than whether or not they can earn home court advantage in the first round. For instance, Memphis seems to have our number. I would prefer to avoid them. Maybe the Clippers as well. The Rockets certainly don't want to see OKC in the first round again this season but as long as the Rockets continue to win that shouldn't be a concern.
           

           

          the spors injuries certainly help and portland are certainly cooling off a little and getting worked over and out more, if the rockets are to pass either Haren needs to find his 3 point shot (this really is a far bigger issue than the PF or PG battle) and Lin needs to be integrated so he can play like he did the past two games with Haren.... and of course getting sad omer back would be massive.......still scared by teams with elite D, and what they can do to our unstructured offence,  so getting home court is massive for this year, otherwise it will be one and done


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