The magic number for the Rockets is now three to secure the third seed/spot in the Western Conference (pending Utah’s game vs. the Pelicans on Monday night). With 18 chances to secure either three wins for Houston or three losses for Utah or a combination of the two, the Rockets are fairly locked into that third spot.
The rest of the West is not locked in at all. Seeds four through seven are separated by four games. There’s a real battle going down for the final playoff spot. And the Warriors and Spurs are battling for the top spot with the Dubs two games ahead in the loss column. However, the teams meet one more time in San Antonio with Golden State on a back-to-back. The Spurs don’t have an easy closing schedule, but they’re good enough to win out and put pressure on the Warriors.
In reality though, the Spurs need some help. Even if San Antonio beats Golden State, they still need the Warriors to drop an extra game. The Warriors close with six of their last seven games at home (even though every game they play seems to be at Oracle). In April they only play two playoff teams (Utah and Washington), but both of course are in the Bay.
Rockets fans can lament being stuck in the third seed since they would much rather be at the top battling for home court throughout the playoffs. But there’s something to be said about the possibility of dialing back minutes rather than making a push that might not yield real results. I know James Harden and Patrick Beverley won’t rest, but even getting Harden down to maybe 32 minutes per night down the stretch could be beneficial.
The Warriors won’t have Kevin Durant tonight and the Rockets will be missing Ryan Anderson. I’m sure Harden and the Rockets will want to win this game put the Warriors (and the rest of the league) on notice, but it’s going to take a great effort and phenomenal offensive output.
Tonight, we get to see Daryl Morey’s “Barrage of Threes” strategy in action. Will it be enough? Either way, it will give Houston a good benchmark, especially since the next time these teams meet the Rockets will be on the second half of a road back-to-back and are unlikely to be able to keep pace with what will be a rested Warriors squad.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on NBA TV.