Houston Rockets Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Golden State Warriors
With the 2016 NBA playoffs now underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Houston Rockets Playoff Preview.
In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors and Rockets kick off their 1-8 matchup Saturday at 12:30 ET. The Houston Rockets didn’t qualify for the NBA playoffs until the final night of the regular season.
Houston We Have a Problem
The Rockets have started heading in the opposite direction. The Houston Rockets were the biggest disappointment in the NBA this season. No contest. What made them tough and resilient a year ago — fighting through big, key injuries to win 56 games and grab the 2-seed — is a distant memory.
Now there is leaked in-house dissension and an overall lethargy that saturates nearly every Rockets game. Sometimes you wonder if this team even wants to be on the court. If anyone has had luck on their side, it wasn’t the Warriors in winning the title last year; it was Houston even getting into the playoffs this year.
Despite bringing back the same supporting cast around the James Harden –Dwight Howard nucleus, this team wheezed through a season of injuries, chaos, and chemistry problems. Ultimately, they scrapped together enough wins to beat the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot – but are now matched up against a historically great basketball team in the first round.
The team’s performance under interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was decent enough to warrant a playoff berth. Harden found his groove and had another great season statistically, although he dropped significantly from last year in MVP voting because of the Rocket’s mediocre record. The other supposed star, Dwight Howard, did not have such a great season.
Patrick Beverly isn’t going to shut down Curry, that’s obvious. You don’t shut down Steph. What he can do, however, is do what Beverly does best: Pester. Annoy. Make Curry even a little bit uncomfortable with his energy and his attitude. Play nasty. The Rockets are at a disadvantage no matter whom Harden is guarding, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they put Ariza on Klay Thompson . Expect the “Splash Brothers” to do a lot of splashing in this series.
For the Rockets, the x-factor is Dwight Howard. Will Houston get the regular season Howard, who sloshed through one of his worst campaigns since his rookie year? Or will the Rockets get playoff Dwight, who averaged 16.0 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in last season’s playoff run?
The Rockets have absolutely nothing to lose in this series and that could potentially make them dangerous, or at the very least, capable of making this a much more exciting matchup than most would anticipate. There are literally no expectations of Houston, with many predictions calling for a Golden State sweep. And that’s what could really make things fun.
The Rockets have been playing well of late and James Harden in currently in the midst of his best stretch of basketball of the entire season. A relaxed and focused James Harden could help Houston from getting swept in the first round.
(Houston Rockets Playoff Preview)