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Halfway through: Can the Houston Rockets win the Southwest Division?

Halfway through the season the Rockets, Grizzlies and Mavericks are locked in a close race for the Southwest Division's top playoff spot.

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Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of a new weekly column tracking the Rockets' record and the records of other NBA basketball teams who play above average.
To start here's a weekly power rankings check from some online resources:





ESPN 6 0 1/19
SB Nation 5 0 1/19
Yahoo! 5 0 1/19
USA Today 5 -1 1/18
PBT/NBC 7 -1 1/19
CBS Sports 7 -1 1/19
SI 5 +1 1/19

With just over half of the 2014-2015 NBA season in the books the Houston Rockets stand at 29 - 13. That's good for fourth place in the Western Conference. It puts the Rockets a half game behind the Memphis Grizzlies in the Southwest Division and leaves one big ole question for the second half of the season. Can the Rockets win the Southwest Division?

Team Record GB
Memphis Grizzlies 29-12 0
Houston Rockets 29-13 0.5
Dallas Mavericks 29-13 0.5
San Antonio Spurs 26-16 3.5
New Orleans Pelicans 20-21 9

The Southwest Division is without question the most competitive of the West's three divisions. With a 20 - 21 record the New Orleans Pelicans are the only sub-.500 team in the Division (by a single game).

The Rockets and Mavericks sit a half game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the division lead, which comes with a guaranteed top four playoff seed. The Rockets currently hold a tie break with both the Grizzlies (2 - 1, one remaining game) and Mavericks (1 - 0, three remaining games).

The Rockets continue an even keel push for the playoffs powered by James Harden's MVP candidacy, a strong defensive presence for a team known for it's offense and contributions from 3rd through 8th best players on the roster. That being said, it doesn't hurt to know what you're up against.

Memphis has come down to earth -- The Memphis Grizzlies started the season with an astounding 21 - 4 record, which included a win against the Golden State Warriors, a feat the Rockets are yet to accomplish. Since the fast start the Grizzlies have produced a flat 8 - 8 record. The recent slide to mortality doesn't represent the Grizzlies final intentions and the team stands to improve from the addition of swingman Jeff Green and the return of reserve point guard Nick Calathes.

Dallas is on the rise -- The Mavericks are 10 - 5 since the trade for Rajon Rondo and share the same record as the Rockets. I'm not labeling the Mavericks as "on the rise" because their record has proportionality improved since the Rondo trade, I'm using that label because they are now a better team.

Spurs are the snake in the grass -- Whenever you're given the opportunity to use the phrase "snake in the grass" take it... The San Antonio Spurs are the Western Conference's snake in the grass. Do they even care what their record is right now? Does it even matter what record they finish with? Are they intentionally keeping Kawhi Leonard from being NBA Finals MVP every night in a Spursian attempt to get a more franchise favorable contract out of him?

Could a Western Conference power collapse?

Right now the general league consensus is that the Western Conference has anointed its playoff teams with the exception of the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder continue their slow ascent in the standings -- complete with Bill Simmons posing a weekly question to Jalen Rose "what playoff seed can the Thunder get to" -- and all eyes remain on their rise. But let's ask the inverse. How far could a Western Conference power fall in the standings?

It seems almost impossible for the Grizzlies, Mavericks or Spurs to catch whatever Roy Hibbert has and suffer a 2014 Indiana Pacers fall from grace. There's a limited chance the recent roster modifications in Memphis or Dallas don't take and any collapse would most likely be attributed to an injury to a critical player or fatigue.

No Houston Rockets are allowed to go on a fishing trip. Everyone keep their feet on dry land.

In review:

  • Games against the Grizzlies and Mavericks come with extra weight. Head-to-head win loss record is the first tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
  • You can argue none of this means anything. The West is still a never ending gauntlet of the league's best teams and a third place seed will still have to play the Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks or some other combination of above average NBA players who all wear the same color jerseys.
  • The Rockets would be third in the Eastern Conference. Not as bad a disparity in previous seasons for us.

Play along in the comments. Give us your Southwest Division end of season predictions in the comments: