Suffering a tough loss on the road in a much needed win against playoff hungry Memphis last week, the Rockets face a daunting schedule the rest of the way to try and climb into the playoff race in the Western Conference. With only four wins against teams with records above .500 since December 1st, the chances of reaching the postseason are slim…but not impossible.
The Rockets have 17 games against teams with winning records left, but 26 games left against teams in the Western Conference. The 17 games are the fewest amongst teams with a legitimate chance to climb into the 8th seed. The Blazers, who currently hold that spot have 21 games against teams with winning records left. Two teams currently ahead of the Rockets in the playoff chase, the Suns and Grizzlies, have 20 and 21 games left against teams with winning records.
Taking a closer look at the current playoff standings:
Out of these eight teams, there are two teams who can definitely get bumped out of the playoff picture. I don’t know how the Blazers keep doing it with their many injuries but the latest one (Marcus Camby going down) I think will really take a toll on Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing out of his mind keeping the Blazers in the playoff hunt. I’m surprised he isn’t in more talks as an MVP Candidate: 21.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, and single-handedly keeping a depleted Blazers roster in the hunt. Even Dallas could bump a couple of spots with some bad losses recently to sub-.500 teams, but with Dirk at the helm, they will still make the playoffs. Denver is imploding faster than a new Nicholas Cage movie at the box office (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Season of the Witch?? Come on Cage your giving us Nick’s a bad name). With so much drama and turmoil in the normally happy city of Denver, as soon as the Nuggets unload Melo they will tank and become a lottery team. Where Anthony ends up is a whole new discussion, with the Nuggets apparently having turned down an offer from NY of Wilson Chandler, rookie Landry Fields and a first-round pick, the Rockets don’t have a much better package to offer unless they plan to break up the core of this team. I hope AB/Lowry wouldn’t be included in a Melo offer but Morey really wants him. I also think the city of Houston would be a good fit for LaLa as the music scene in Houston is vibrant.
That leaves two spots for the Rockets to jump the Suns and the Grizzlies. With Vince Carter looking like Jessica Simpson a couple of years ago, I don’t see either of these teams being able to compete with the product Houston puts on the floor.
I don’t know whether the Magic are that good or if it was tough matching against Superman on a back-to-back, but the Rockets were manhandled by Orlando. All 5 starters scored in double figures for Orlando as the Magic win for the 4th straight time against the Rockets. It was the 4th-highest point total of the season for the Magic. I give the Magic a ton of props and think they are a serious contender in the East, but it is not just that the Magic are good. Houston has struggled mightily against the top teams in the league. They were in a lot of these games but in the end it comes down to wins and losses. This week is a telling one as the Rockets face division/state rivals Dallas and San Antonio as well as the T-Wolves tonight and “The Blake Show” on Wednesday. It doesn’t get any easier after that…Houston’s next opponents: Lakers, Jazz, Grizzlies, and Nuggets. If the Rockets can go ¾ this week to creep back to .500, it would be huge as the Blazers have a tough week themselves.
So…will the Rockets make the playoffs?
If Skip Bayless is known as the “Diabolical Hater” I must be the “Optomistic Lover.” As I have said I might be too much of a “glass-half-full” type of guy but I predict the Rockets will squeak into the 8th seed …but it will come down to the wire.