Friday, March 21, 2008

Houston Rockets - First Round Losers?

Wow! A 22-game NBA winning streak is unheard of these days and is truly an amazing streak. Despite their overachieving success as of late, I am still quite concerned with the way the Rockets have played in their last two games. Not to say that the Rockets were playing a weak schedule over their 22 game winning streak but they played very few teams that presented an inside challenge to them during the streak. After watching Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce dominate the paint last Tuesday, I have identified some teams that the Rockets should have problems with if they are to match up with these teams in the playoffs.

1. San Antonio Spurs - With Yao Ming in the lineup, the Rockets match up very well with San Antonio and have had some regular season success with the Spurs over the past few years. Without Yao though, this is the team that I would fear the most of having to meet in the playoffs. Tim Duncan would dominate the paint and the Spurs playoff experience and defensive intensity would ultimately prove to be too much for the Rockets.

2. Phoenix Suns – The Rockets have never matched up well with the Phoenix Suns and why should this season be any different? Even with the addition of Shaq, the Suns are still a run-and-gun team. For some reason, the Rockets do not match up well with teams that like to run the fast break and this may be the best fast break team since the L.A. Lakers’ “Showtime” of the 1980’s.

3. Utah Jazz – Two words. Carlos Boozer. Boozer dominated the Rockets in last year’s 7-game first round series and without Yao’s defensive presence inside, it is scary to think what Boozer could do to the Rockets this year.

4. Dallas Mavericks – While some would argue that the Rockets do match up well with the Mavericks and would be favored in a series against them, remember that the Rockets have only beaten the Mavericks once this season in four tries. The win came during the 22-game winning streak and oh yeah, Dirk Nowitzki just happened to be sidelined due to a 1-game suspension during this game as well.

5. Golden State Warriors – See Phoenix Suns. Over the last 2 seasons, the Warriors have become nemesis number 1 for the Houston Rockets. While the Warriors average 110 points a game, they do allow 108 points per game defensively. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they have only scored 108 points or more this season on 12 occasions.

So after eliminating the teams that the Rockets do not match up well against, who does that leave? Well it leaves two teams: the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers own the best record in the Western Conference at 47-21 while the Hornets own the best record in the Southwest Division at 46-21, one half game behind the Lakers.

These are the two teams the Rockets match-up best with you ask. Yes! Look at the numbers. With that said and despite owning the 2nd best NBA winning streak of all time, I don’t see this team getting out of the first round of the playoffs … again ... regardless of their opponent.