Will the Houston Rockets Make the Western Conference Finals?
The Western Conference in the NBA has been an extremely tough path to the finals in years past. While the East has gotten stronger this year with the Milwaukee Bucks emerging and Kawhi Leonard joining the Toronto Raptors, the West is still arguably much more competitive. The 8th seed in the East, the Detroit Pistons, finished the season .500 at 41-41. When looking at the West, the 8th seeded Los Angeles Clippers ended the season well over that mark. They winded up with a record of 48 wins and 34 losses. The East might be more top-heavy but the West is more competitive. This will make the road to the Western Conference Finals extremely tough for the reigning Western Conference regular season champs the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets started the season poorly, having a measly record of 9-11. Only eight teams in the league were worse. Seven of them being in the Eastern Conference. This abysmal start to the season could be from a number of tissues. For starters, the Rockets didn’t retain Trevor Ariza in the offseason, a vital piece to the roster. The team also had a number of injuries early on. James Harden missed a few games as well as Chris Paul missing some as well on top of his suspension. Most importantly though, the defense was almost nonexistent to start the year. The Rockets went from a top 10 defense in the league the year prior, to being bottom 10 early on.
The Houston Rockets have since come a long way. They hit stride once getting fully healthy finishing the year 53-29. James Harden finished the season averaging a staggering 36.1 PPG and will more than likely win MVP. Their defense improved tremendously and they really seem to have clicked on all cylinders with Clint Capela really coming into his own and Eric Gordon and Chris Paul doing what they do.
The Rockets find themselves matched up with the Utah Jazz in the first round. The Jazz is an all-around solid team as they only lost three more games than the Rockets this season. Though much less glamorous of a roster, still a very strong opponent. Donovan Mitchell and company will look to lead the team past the Rockets in the first round even though the Rockets won the first game pretty overwhelmingly with a score of 122-90. Look for the Rockets to win this series in 5 or 6 games to face the Golden State Warriors in the next round.
The Warriors remain top dogs in the conference with the first seed and are the favorite to win the championship with possibly the best team in NBA history. This will be the Rockets toughest challenge. Last year’s match-up occurred in the Conference Finals and was extremely tight. One can argue the Rockets would have pulled off the upset and possibly could have gone off to win the Finals if Chris Paul did not get injured. However, this is a new season and these are different teams. The Houston Rockets do not appear strong enough of an opponent right now to beat the Golden State Warriors in a 7 game series, thus not advancing after the second round.
How far do you see the Houston Rockets traveling in the Western Conference playoffs? Leave a comment below.
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