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Houston Rockets vs. Washington Wizards game preview

NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has finally started to use the Premier League’s final day scheduling, which is nice.

In the EPL, and in many other leagues, the final day of season has every team playing at the exact same time. This avoids any funny business and gives everyone a sense of desperation if they’re fighting for the top spot, a spot in Europe, or trying to avoid relegation. It adds some serious drama that is difficult to replicate.

The NBA used to just schedule the final day of the regular season like any other day. That usually screwed the Rockets over in some way, and today that trend kind of continues.

Because there are 30 teams, there are 15 games. Simple math. And every game played by an Eastern Conference team starts at noon central. Then all games played by Western Conference teams start right after at 2:30pm CT. Unfortunately, there’s an odd number of teams in each division so the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards are playing the only non-conference game today.

Here’s what you need to know going into the game:

  • Kevin Porter Jr. is already announced as out for today’s game. That turns some of his bonuses next year into “unlikely” for salary cap purposes, giving Houston over $2 million in additional cap space this summer. Jae’Sean Tate is also still out.
  • The Wizards are almost eliminated from the postseason, so they’re resting everyone. Specifically, Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, and Monte Morris are out.
  • Washington has a reason to want to lose. A loss could see them move up for a tie for the sixth-best lottery odds with Indiana and Orlando. Both the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic are on the road, but they are playing the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, respectively. However, the Knicks and Heat are locked into their seeding, so might be resting key players too. Basically, there’s more than a few teams trying to lose and more than a few teams playing third stringers anyway.
  • Houston of course has their own reason to lose. A loss would guarantee them a tie for the second-worst record, and with the San Antonio Spurs playing after Houston, it’s imperative that Houston find a way to lose the game to force San Antonio to match them.
  • However, the Spurs are playing the Dallas Mavericks, whom you may have heard are actively tanking and getting some attention from the league for it. The Mavericks own their own pick if it lands in the top 10. Otherwise, it goes to the Knicks for the Porzingis trade from a few years back. Dallas is a game “ahead” of the Chicago Bulls, whom they lost to on purpose on Friday. But if the Mavs win and the Bulls lose, that would tie the teams for tenth-worst record and dilute Dallas’s chances of keeping their own pick.
  • The Bulls play before Dallas, so the Mavs will know the result they need. Chicago is playing Detroit, who don’t care either way. But if you’re the Bulls, you wouldn’t mind taking an L by resting everyone and letting it play out.

So the sequence feels like it goes like this:

  1. Chicago wins because Detroit sucks. The Indiana and Orlando results become moot.
  2. The Rockets win because they’re playing more core players than the Wizards.
  3. The Spurs lose becasue they know they must and Dallas suddenly doesn’t care if they win because they’d be locked into the tenth spot in the lottery.
  4. Houston finishes with the third-worst record and are only guaranteed a top 7 pick.

So it looks like the final day schedule screwed Houston once again.

Tip-off is at 12pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest

P.S. I want to thank everyone who read these throughout the season. I know it’s been difficult with Houston’s poor play over these past three seasons, but I continue to enjoy writing and talking about the Rockets with you all. It means a lot.