Thoughts on the Playoff Picture

As the playoffs are approaching, I just wanted to talk a little about what the playoff picture can look like in the Western Conference. With four or so games remaining, here is where things currently stand in the West:

Western Conference

Right now the Rockets are in the seventh place and OKC just moved up into first after the Spurs lost last night to Denver. Here are the games remaining for the teams in the West:

Remaining Games

I’m not gonna go through and make any specific predictions about what teams are going to win which remaining games. You can feel free to do that yourself. Without going into too much detail, here’s where I think things will shake out come playoff time. I think Rockets will finish in the 6th place and OKC will stay at number 1. I think Denver is also going to hang onto the number 3 seed. So here’s the standings in the West as I see them:

  1. Thunder
  2. Spurs
  3. Nuggets
  4. Clippers
  5. Grizzlies
  6. Rockets
  7. Warriors
  8. Lakers or Jazz

The reason I think OKC will hang onto the top spot is that the Spurs are going to rest their players–especially Parker–and OKC has more incentive to stay in the number 1 spot for several reasons. This young OKC team has accomplished a lot, but I don’t think they’ve finished with the best record in the West, yet. So I think they’ll want that for bragging rights. I also don’t think any of the players or management want to face Harden in the first round (even though Rockets are likely to move into the 6th seed), either because they don’t want to be the ones to eliminate him or management would get skewered if they lost to Harden in the first round. So, overall OKC has much more incentive to take the top spot.

I think Rockets will take the 6th seed, because they have a much easier schedule than the Warriors going into the home stretch. Unless there’s going to be shenanigans and teams rest players or are trying to throw games, I think the Rockets will overtake the Warriors for the 6th spot. This means that the Rockets will likely match up against Denver or maybe even Memphis. Clippers are out of the picture, because of tiebreaker situations, etc. Clippers will stay in the 4th spot, so there’s really no chance the Rockets will be facing the Clippers. This being the case, if Rockets move to the 6th spot, they have to pick their poison against the Nuggets or the Grizzlies. I would probably prefer the Grizzlies to the Nuggets, but I don’t think Nuggets are giving up the 3rd spot, since they own the tiebreaker against the Grizzlies. So the Rockets can either choose to stay where they’re at and throw a few games and rest some guys so they can battle against the Spurs or move up and go against the Nuggets.

I don’t know how you all feel, but I’d actually rather the Rockets match up against the Spurs, so I would prefer them to stay where they’re at. The Spurs are, no doubt, a very tough team—especially in the playoffs–since they’re so well coached. But I think Rockets style of basketball has a better chance of winning against the Spurs than the Nuggets. Nuggets are just a better, more athletic version of the Rockets. Iggy has Harden’s number and Asik also has had trouble against the really fast and athletic Nuggets team. I wonder what Morey or McHale or the Rockets guys are thinking. My guess is that they’re going to do their best and move up and, at the end of the day, I’m fine with that, because it’s not like it would be a cake walk against the Spurs anyway. Hopefully, Harden learns how to play against Iggy and not revert to desperation Hero Ball mode. Lin seems to do well against the Nuggets, so I guess as a Lin fan, I should be rooting for Rockets to take on the Nuggets. Also, I don’t like the idea of throwing games. I think it probably does something to the winning psyche. So I guess Rockets should just play their game and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe rest some key players here and there. Either way, I just hope for no injuries or flu or food poisoning, etc. for the rest of the way and into the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how McHale handles the playoffs, as well as how these young guys respond to the test.

I haven’t been paying too much attention to the Lakers, so have no idea how they’ve been playing, lately. The Jazz are only a game behind the Lakers and Jazz own the tiebreaker. Lakers also have a much tougher match up going into the playoffs, even though they’ll be playing at home the rest of the way. It’s crazy to think about it, but there’s actually a pretty good chance the Lakers don’t make the playoffs. Not sure how I feel about that. I was inactively (meaning I didn’t pay much attention to them, but was content to see them fight for the 8th spot the entire season) rooting against the Lakers this entire season, because I don’t like teams that just try and throw a bunch of big names together for the sake of having big names. I wanted the Lakers to fail to teach GMs a valuable lesson. But now that the playoffs are approaching, a small part of me feels like there’s something not quite right about Kobe not being in the playoffs. To hell with it. What am I saying? It would be pretty awesome if the Lakers don’t make the playoffs. This is what I’ll be watching for and actively rooting for in the coming days. Go Jazz!


10 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Playoff Picture

  1. if the last game against the nuggets are any indication.. i predict a very ugly 4-1 (or even sweep) loss for Rox.. we don’t match up well at all except at Lin’s position who can beat andre miller’s old ass.. but that’s about it..they are outmatched at every spot and their home court is much more threatening than Houston’s…

  2. sharp as always and great post. I have a good feeling about that 6th spot too. As of now, I’m a bit indifferent to either SA or Denver. But I know for sure I want to avoid OKC who is healthy (and destroyed GS on Thurs TNT).

    If Denver, Harden’s got to pass out more to teammates because of Denver’s elite wing defenders and athletic bigs. The advantage for Houston will be in PG/SG position and they have to milk that. HOU bigs need to box out and rebound, and Lin needs to slow the pace. DEN injuries give us a fighting chance. Both teams have good depth on the bench and in these fastpaced games, the better bench will determine the series.

    If SA, HOU needs to keep pushing and hope injuries slow Parker and Manu. HOU won’t be able to keep up for a healthy SA unless Lin and Harden scores 30+ a game. Good chance for upset, if injuries continue to SA.

    I’m confident Jazz will make it. But gotta say- Kobe is pretty amazing.

    • Thanks, Eric! Yep, like him or not, you have to respect Kobe’s game. He is a master at his craft and that’s something I can really appreciate. He’s also a fierce competitor and hard worker, that’s why I feel bad that it looks like he’ll be out for the season after last night’s injury.

  3. Nice to find out this site, really enjoyed the read here. Just like to share my thoughts here.

    If I were McHale, I’d push hard to go after 6th seed. Against Spurs, Rocket will for sure be out coached. Spurs is a team that has been together for a long time, could do all kinds of fine tuning in real time, and though Rockets won once, and almost won another time against them, but i don’t think they could win Spurs when SA are focused. They might steal a game, but I’d think there is no chance by trying to out run them, or out score them. And, it will really look bad on the coach. First of all, McHale would not be able to do similar in game adjustment like what Popovich could, second, the team was not trained that way, they don’t have enough sets to do too much in game adjustment, so far McHale’s only in game adjustment was to sub in benches, LOL.

    Against Denver, it will be a different story, DEN is also run and gun team, just do everything better. Thus, less in game adjustment, it is not that big of contrast of X and O differences between two coaches. So, Rocket still has a chance to fight, and if they lose, it would be obvious due to player talent, which is okay for this young team. Fans would not be mad. 🙂

    For me, I’d prefer DEN over Spurs too. I know Rocket will lose, and lose badly, however, this is their first year of rebuild, it is more important for the team to gain experience, and also learn something from the playoff than get a better ranking, or win more games.

    I think against DEN would be a perfect situation for the team to work out Lin and Harden’s balance. DEN somehow is a bad match up for Harden, this season in 4 games, Harden got total of 22 TO in their matches, and got below his average 18.25 pt/game. He tend to press the issue a bit since he got frustrated. To get it worse, Asik also tend not to perform well in high elevation, he always look gassed when he was in Denver or in Utah. Play DEN repetitively would really let Harden and McHale learn how to balance the whole team’s offense when James got limited, and how Harden could win through his teammate, and learn to trust other people. On the other hand, hopefully the team could also realize how important defense is, and get Harden to focus a bit more on that side of the court.

    Then compare to Spurs, Jeremy’s match up is a bit better against DEN. Hopefully, by fight them hard, the team could learn more what they did right, and what we did wrong.

    I admit I’m a Lin fan, might even belong to LOF group, but I still think for the sake of longer term growth of the Rocket team, against DEN is better. I think this is a great opportunity there to expose the team’s problem in balancing the offense in a bigger stage, I think Rockets has been hiding that problem by keep saying offense is not a problem, and James is the best player so they should put ball in his hand. Well, hopefully by going through multiple games against DEN, they would realize the problem, and better yet, find a way to solve that.

    • Great post–I really agree w what you said here. I would rather face denver in the first round. denver is the kind of team that surprises you when you play them, but i think in a series, they are easier to beat. look at the difference between their home and road record–i think because teams have trouble adjusting to the altitude and environment in pepsi center, they are caught off-guard and blown away by denver’s fast-paced game. this is especially true of the rockets’ last game against denver, the second of a back to back. rockets have better perimeter offense than denver, and tonight’s highly entertaining game gave me confidence in the rockets’ defense.
      it is pretty much impossible for a team like the rockets to beat the spurs in a seven game series. they are coached so well, and the rockets make tons of stupid mistakes that are really costly when the spurs are actually trying their hardest. and chasing around parker for many games in a row will not be fun for lin at all….
      either way, the rockets have very little chance of advancing to the second round, but i would like to see them play denver.
      tonight’s game was really fun to watch. i rarely get to watch games, but that fourth quarter was awesome ^^ rockets made some dumb mistakes down the stretch but great overall intensity and effort. this is why i love sports

      • edit: from an analytic standpoint, we have very little chance of advancing to the second round.
        but this team had very little chance to advance to the playoffs this season, too. and x-factor jeremy lin can make things happen!

    • I enjoyed reading your comments, Linfan, Very excellent points about the pros and cons of the different potential playoff match ups for the Rockets. I thought the point your made about how Denver can teach McHale and Rockets to find a good balance between Lin and Harden was especially insightful. Look forward to more of your comments in the future.

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