A win over Sacramento and a Warriors loss later in the evening would mean a tie for the sixth seed, and the possibility of not having to play the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Houston came into this one with their incredibly disciplined best foot forward, and that's the way they ran throughout.
With three extremely smart offensive players going up against the chronically mentally lapsing Kings, all the Rockets had to do was hit their shots and they were going to have a rather clear path toward victory.
Sacramento bit on pump-fakes all night long, committed silly fouls, and missed ridiculously close shots just to make things harder on themselves.
In the end, the pace ran Sacramento's point total above 100, but they were constantly struggling on offense.
While the Rockets were able to come down, run their offense, and get a good shot off within the first 14 seconds of the shot clock on nearly every possession, Sacramento was hoping and heaving at the ends of the shot clock far too often.
It looks like a sloppy game for Houston in the box score, sending Sacramento to the line for 34 free throw attempts and turning the ball over 19 times, but Sacramento was sloppier.
Houston rode the smart play of James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons, and got a bit of unexpected brilliance off the bench along the way.
Stat Line: 15 points, 1 rebound, 10 assists, 1 steal, 5-13 shooting, 3-6 three-pointers
Jeremy Lin's presence in this game was unfair at times to the Sacramento Kings. His ability to realize when something is going askew in the defense, and then react in a way to perfectly exploit the newly-developed hole is the best aspect of his game.
With the Kings running around at times like headless fowl, Lin thrived.
He didn't have a game that would make you stop and go, "woah," but his game was so effective that the Kings were continually frustrated in their attempt to hang with the Rockets.
Lin found himself open for a corner three on two separate occasions, both of which came in similar fashion.
With Isaiah Thomas guarding him, Lin would take off from the left side of the court to the right, purposefully run in front of the ball-handler (usually Harden) who would drive and get the attention of Thomas. Lin popped out to the corner and had a wide-open three as soon as Harden got into the lane.
His brilliance off the ball, paired with his terrific passing and his tremendous ball-handling in this game were all a huge part of the Rockets' win.
Stat Line: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 7-19 shooting, 2-8 three-pointers
All James Harden had to do was have a normal night from the floor and he and the Rockets were going to be fine.
With Tyreke Evans covering him for the majority of the game, and Evan's defensive prowess being mediocre compared to most of the guys that check Harden on a nightly basis, so he was going to be able to get to the rim.
Harden and his beard started out the game shooting well, knocking down a few quick long-range jumpers and a three-pointer to get going early, but his shots stopped falling later on in the game.
At that point Harden began driving to the lane and drawing fouls, something that plagued the Sacramento Kings for the duration. Sacramento was in the penalty with five fouls in the third quarter with nearly 10 minutes left in the third quarter, thanks in huge part to Harden getting to the rim.
Of course, Harden was woefully incapable of checking Evans on defense, so there was plenty of lapses on that end, but that's to be expected of him at this point in the season.
Stat Line: 29 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 12-18 shooting, 3-6 three-pointers
Chandler Parsons has never pump-faked so many times in his life, and something tells me that he would never expect so many pump-fakes to work either.
It was one of the best games of the year for Parsons, and this was the perfect team for him as far as matchups go.
Obviously the Kings are woeful at times on defense, but the reason they're bad defense is more mental than anything. They're undisciplined and tend to break down for stretches at a time if things aren't going their way.
When Parsons, an incredibly smart offensive player with or without the ball, was matched up against the indifferent, slow-footed John Salmons, Parsons was able to get open looks or just waltz into the lane whenever he wanted.
However, like Harden, his defense was pretty shaky. He took to Marcus Thornton in Thornton's best stretches of the game, and was constantly out-run, fooled, or just shook off on defense.
Still, this team thrives on offensive efficiency, and Parsons was exactly that against Sacramento.
Stat Line: 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1-2 shooting
Greg Smith was just there tonight. He was a body on the floor to help grab some rebounds and share the power forward duties with Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, any of whom could earn the starting spot on any given night.
Smith is mostly used this year as a guy who can throw his big body into the paint and grab some rebounds when Omer Asik isn't on the floor, but who is quick enough to guard power forwards.
Offensively he's there to dunk and whip out his jump hook every once in a while. Basically anything he scores ends up being a bonus.
Tonight he didn't do much scoring, and he didn't do much defending either once Jason Thompson started knocking down jumpers.
He did a bit of rebounding, and put in one of his two shots, but like everybody who went out to guard the big Thompson tonight, stopping him just didn't come easily.
Stat Line: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 6-8 shooting
Omer Asik didn't have his usual night pulling down rebounds at a ridiculous rate, but he was given so much help by his teammates that he didn't need to.
Asik did most of his damage in the third quarter, coming out and scoring the first nine points for the Rockets as he and James Harden drew fouls like crazy.
He continued on his trek of efficient shooting, scored when he got the ball in his hands, and came up with a few steals, but it wasn't a stand-out night for the big Turk.
It was a rare off-night on defense, as he was having troubles chasing the quicker, stronger DeMarcus Cousins around the floor for the duration, but he did a fine job against Cole Aldrich. I'm not sure if that last part is actually praise or not.
Not a terrible game, but not a great one. Asik got the job done for the most part, even if he did have a lapse here and there throughout.
Stat Line: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 6-11 shooting
When the Houston Rockets drafted Terrence Jones they were dreaming of him having games like this. As they stocked up on power forwards before the start of the season, something thrown against the wall was bound to stick, and it seems Jones is doing his best to stand out.
Houston recalled Jones from the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers on April 1st, and this was his first game in the rotation since December 19th.
This was definitely his best outing of the season.
Jones' 14 points and 12 rebounds were both career highs. Even more impressive, eight of Jones' 12 rebounds were offensive.
He was efficient, didn't make any stupid mistakes, and ended up earning the most minutes of any Rockets big man.
Something tells me that this game is going to get him a bit more playing time as the season wraps up.
Stat Line: 26 points, 19 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 11-26 shooting
With Carlos Delfino out of another game with a sore foot, the Rockets were going to need a bit of production elsewhere on their bench.
The boys on the pine didn't disappoint, as they got a bit of everything from the bench.
Of course Terrence Jones had a superb game on the glass and stretching the floor for the Rockets, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Donatas Motiejunas showed off some keen footwork in the post, Francisco Garcia played some smart defense early on in the fourth quarter, and Patrick Beverly came through running the point when Jeremy Lin took a break yet again.
With three members of the starting five playing at least 36 minutes in this one, the bench didn't run incredibly deep, but the guys who came in were extremely effective.