NBA: 5 Things That Need to Happen for Rockets to Make the Postseason
One of the more pleasant surprises in the NBA this season has been the Houston Rockets. There has been a major turnover in Houston over the past few years, as the era of superstars has come to an end.
However, their current bunch of just plain solid players has made an unexpected impact and has the Rockets in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Currently sitting at 32 wins and 30 losses with just four games left, the Rockets are just one half of a game out of a playoff spot. So how can the Rockets make that push to the playoffs?
Getting rid of this current five-game losing streak would be a major starting point.
Obviously, the Rockets need to win as many of their final four games as possible. Not only are they currently sitting outside of the playoffs, but they also don't hold tiebreakers with Dallas and Utah, who both sit ahead of them in the standings.
Regardless of what happens over the next four games, the Rockets have built some serious momentum heading into next season. They competed in the very difficult Western Conference and gave themselves a chance to make the postseason. Even if it doesn't happen, the Rockets have something to build on and have given their fans some excitement and hope.
But I'm sure they want more than excitement and hope. They want postseason basketball back in Houston. The following are five things that need to happen in order for the Rockets to make the playoffs.
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The Rockets are currently on a five-game losing streak. That needs to end fast if they hope to have a chance at the playoffs.
The Rockets currently have four games left in the season. They are playing at New Orleans (and winning) as I write this. After tonight, they head back home to the Toyota Center to take on the struggling Golden State Warriors, then off to Miami to take on the Heat and they wrap up their season at home with one more against the Hornets.
With three of their remaining games against two of the worst teams in the league, the Rockets need to make sure they win all three of those. Obviously, they will face a tremendous test against the Heat, but if the Rockets can win three of their final four games, they will have a solid chance to continue on to the postseason.
Utah Must Lose
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The best possible chance for the Rockets to make the postseason is for the Utah to lose two of its final three games.
With the schedule Utah is facing, that is very possible.
Over their final three games, as they cling on to a half-game lead, the Utah Jazz will host Orlando, Phoenix and Portland. If Utah wins two of the three, they will clinch a playoff berth. However, if Utah loses two, it will open the door for the Rockets to sneak past.
Phoenix Also Must Lose
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The Rockets not only want the Jazz to lose two of their final few games, but they also need Phoenix to lose two games. With a better conference record, Phoenix holds the tiebreaker over Houston. Each team has four games left and are currently tied in the standings.
The good news is that Phoenix's schedule is much tougher than Houston's.
Over their last four games, Phoenix hosts the Los Angeles Clippers (tonight) and the Denver Nuggets before traveling to Utah to face the Jazz. The Suns wrap up their season at home against San Antonio. With three playoff teams on the docket, the Suns look to have a monumental task if they want to make the postseason.
The most important Suns game that the Rockets will be interested in will be the Phoenix-Utah game. With the difficulty of the remainder of the Suns' schedule, the Rockets will likely benefit most from Phoenix beating Utah on the road and handing them a necessary loss.
You can count on the Rockets paying close attention to that game—and the rest of the Phoenix schedule.
Kevin Martin's Return
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The Houston Rockets have played their last 10 games without leading scorer Kevin Martin, which would most likely explain their current slump.
Martin injured his shoulder a couple weeks ago, and hasn't played at all for the Rockets since. As of right now, Martin has still not checked in to the game against the Hornets as I write this, so it's fair to say he hasn't played in 11 games.
The good news for the Rockets is that Martin appears just about ready to go. Adding him back to the lineup will bring Houston a guy who's scoring 17.1 points per game in just over 30 minutes. That would be a major boost for a team that will need all the scoring it can get for the rest of the season.
Getting Martin back means the team can go back to its regular rotations that had made it so successful before. Martin can step in and play his smart, unorthodox style and bring his leadership back to the team. Those additions will be a big help in lifting the Rockets toward the postseason.
Feed Goran Dragic
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In the absence of leading scorer Kevin Martin, the Rockets needed somewhere to turn to get some added scoring. They needed someone to step up and fill the void left by Martin.
Enter Goran Dragic.
Dragic is averaging 11.5 points per game and 5.1 assists per game on the season, and he has been fairly solid all year. But over the past 10 games, Goran Dragic has been absolutely playing out of his mind.
Since Martin went down, Dragic's numbers have skyrocketed. Over the past 10 games, Dragic is averaging 20 points and 7.6 assists per game. Even though the Rockets have struggled, Dragic has done his best to make sure they stay in games.
The trick for the Rockets and their coaching staff will be to make sure Dragic is allowed to stay hot when Kevin Martin returns. They need to make sure the two players are willing to share the ball and utilize each player to the maximum.
If the Rockets can assimilate Martin back into the rotation while managing to keep Dragic's touches up, the Rockets will get a major boost and become a dangerous team as the season draws to a close.