The Houston Rockets have to lose at some point.....right? Right?
The Rockets are riding a 17-game winning streak, which has kept them atop the Western Conference. Last Friday, when the Rockets had a dangerous week ahead of them, I suggested that the Golden State Warriors might overtake them by today.
That didn’t happen, as both teams went 3-0 during the stretch, keeping the Rockets a half game ahead of the Dubs.
The Warriors-Rockets outlook
There are 17 games left for the Warriors to overtake the Rockets, who have 18 still on the schedule. Since the Rockets own the tiebreaker against the Warriors (Houston won the regular season series), they would earn the top seed if the teams tie. In other words, Golden State needs to finish a game ahead of Houston in order to have the top seed.
If the Rockets’ streak is to end at some point, tonight would be a prime candidate, as they’re on the road against the Toronto Raptors. The rest of the week features games against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Los Angeles Clippers. There could be a loss or two in there, but it’s no sure thing.
The Warriors schedule this week features road games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves, and a home contest against the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s a little bit easier than Houston’s, but the Dubs will be without Stephen Curry for at least two of those games.
This one is pretty clearly coming down to the wire. The Rockets have the advantages of health, momentum, and the current lead, but the Warriors have the notably easier schedule the rest of the way. Should be fun.
The rest of the pack
A week of action did absolutely nothing to change the cluster that is the other eight teams jockeying for playoff positioning. Just look at where the standings were, entering Friday’s action:
Western Conference Standings
Just look at that ridiculousness! Anyone could end up anywhere.
While things will surely shake up over the final weeks of the season, the Warriors are, just as last week, currently in line for a first round showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which would be oh so beautiful. They would then face either the Blazers or Wolves in round two.
But at this point, it’s far too early to start making travel arrangements. That same Thunder team scheduled to face Golden State could very easily move up to the third seed, or could very easily fall out of the playoffs altogether.
To top it all off, the two teams currently falling in the standings - the Wolves and Spurs - are expecting superstars (Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, respectively), to return by the time the playoffs start. Those teams could drop to the seventh and eight spots, then add two of the top players in the game just in time for a matchup with Golden State or Houston.
Who needs March Madness when you have the Western Conference?!