As we head to the final preview of the regular season, this is the space I get to hijack for my own selfish purposes once a season.
For the first time since I started writing previews for The Dream Shake, I finally was able to preview all 82 games. That’s been a personal goal of mine every year, but something has always come up to prevent it: school, family, work, etc. Life happens to us all, but at TDS I’ve always felt like a member of a family that loves basketball and the Houston Rockets.
I’m excited to be staying on at TDS and you can look forward to reading my half-formed thoughts and poorly-described analysis for another 82 games next season.
It’s been difficult at times this season, which feels weird to say. The 2017-18 Houston Rockets are unequivocally the greatest regular season Rockets team ever. It’s been an absolute blast watching them when work allowed. Houston was so good that previews became kind of boring. Houston lost very few games that they weren’t supposed to lose. Few games featured the anticipation that premiere games did in previous seasons. How many games were you full-on anxious about this season? I can think of five. That’s a testament to just how much better Houston was than everyone else.
Houston will be playing Minnesota, OKC, San Antonio, or New Orleans in the first round. Here’s the breakdown from Daryl Morey:
Playoff picture:— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) April 10, 2018
-- If Spurs win then we play the Pelicans
-- If Spurs lose then we play Minnesota if they beat Denver
- If Spurs lose then we play Spurs if Denver wins
...assuming OKC beats Memphis
I know that the injury to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has put a damper on everything, but Rockets fans should be excited about the playoffs. While LRMAM is crucial to Houston’s switch-everything defense, Houston can still run out their CP3-Harden-EG-Ariza-PJ lineup, but it won’t be as effective as their lineup that includes LRMAM in place of Gordon. Still, it will be up to Joe Johnson, Gerald Green, and Ryan Anderson to allow MDA to play multiple lineups. That’s assuming Ryno is healthy.
So it stands to reason that Houston wants a team that can’t punish them for being unable to switch everything. That makes San Antonio a no, as the Spurs will switch as many times as it takes to get CP3 onto LMA. Houston will do the same thing the other way, but LMA against the Rockets is a different animal than LMA against anyone else at any other time. OKC wouldn’t be terrible, as the Thunder aren’t built to create tons of mismatches other than the inherent mismatch created by Russell Westbrook’s speed and size. OKC will probably beat Memphis though, so no need to worry there.
That leaves New Orleans and Minnesota. The Pelicans are playing without DeMarcus Cousins, obviously, but Anthony Davis has stepped up along with their two guards in Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo. That, combined with the unbreakable rule that one random Pelican must score a career high against the Rockets every game makes them a dicey situation.
The Timberwolves are filled with talent and have an unguardable big in Karl-Anthony Towns. Clint Capela could slow him down but KAT is too good to be stopped. Jimmy Butler’s return gives them an X-factor, as does Andrew Wiggins’ experience from carrying the perimeter offense in Butler’s absence. Jeff Teague has also scored a ton against Houston this year. Still, Houston seems to have Minny’s number and Minnesota runs into the “math problem” vs. Houston that 3>2. So, I believe the Rockets are best-suited for a first-round matchup with the Wolves, but obviously that’s like picking the least poisonous of four deadly mushrooms: they can all kill you, but some give you a better chance at survival than others.
Before I close, I would just like to thank everyone who reads this blog, and specifically the previews. Whether you lurk, browse, or devour the content, please know that I am grateful. You have a lot of options out there for previews or Rockets talk, and it means a lot that you pick this site. Without The Dream Shake my connection to Rockets fans would be limited to my brothers and dad (whom I love, if they’re reading this).
Come have fun with us in the playoffs, too! I’ll still be writing previews and you can expect our regular in-depth playoffs content as we figure out our opponents and prepare for the series to start on Saturday or Sunday. And yeah, I still owe you guys a mailbag preview. I haven’t forgotten.
Oh, and the Rockets play the Sacramento Kings tonight.
Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT.
The other three games that matter in the determination of the eighth seed (Memphis at Oklahoma City, San Antonio at New Orleans, and Denver at Minnesota) all start at 7pm CT.