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Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game preview

The Rockets host the Oklahoma City Thunder on ABC.

This would be a technical foul if it were Dwight.
This would be a technical foul if it were Dwight.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets now sit a game behind both the Mavs and Jazz for the last two spots in the Western Conference playoffs. Gone are the days where Houston could dream of vaulting into fifth or sixth place. Houston is firmly in a race just to squeak into the playoffs. And the Rockets are losing.

Technically, the Rockets still control their own destiny since they have one final game against the Mavericks in Dallas. However, that would also require the Rockets to win out, something that they have proven consistently this season that they are incapable of doing. Houston's longest winning streaks this season are 5- and 4-game streaks. In case you haven't seen the schedule, Houston has six games left, including two sets of back-to-backs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were in a similar situation last year. While Houston's struggles have been due to a variety of on-court factors, the Thunder's issues last season were due to injuries throughout the team (most notably to MVP Kevin Durant, obviously).

Houston's front office is going to be extremely busy in a few weeks. Dwight Howard is going to opt out and will almost certainly bolt. Donatas Motiejunas is a free agent that knows the Rockets traded him. Counting Clint Capela's team option, the Rockets have 8 players on the books for next year. So they'll have to go hunting.

But first they need a coach. Is J.B. Bickerstaff the answer? Free agents will want to know before they jump into this mess. And finding a coach isn't a quick process. Interviews have to be conducted. Paperwork has to be figured out.

Will free agents want to play with James Harden after he's been bashed repeatedly by the media? His reputation is tainted. Everyone thinks he pulls the strings, and maybe he does. No one wants to be Robin to a Batman that could get you traded in a heartbeat. This is a sticky situation with no easy end in sight.

Or maybe, does Houston want that lottery pick?

Tip-off is at 2:30pm Central on ABC.

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