The Rockets play the Lakers at LA for the last day of the season. If you have been watching some of the Rockets blow outs and the way that they play, I'm pretty sure they can take the Lakers (sans Kobe) 8 out of 10 times if they try. The Rockets are just too fast at the perimeter, Asik gives them great defense at the rim, and the legs and swarms of players are too young and transition too fast for the Lakers to defend.
But the Rockets ride Harden hard, and should really be looking to give him time off. Lin also takes a beating. And Asik is going to need to play as much as possible in the playoffs. There are lots of reasons to bench the entire starting team on the last day. Also, if I were them, I think they would prefer to have the Lakers in the playoffs for two reasons (a) better chance of Nash, Gasol or Howard (all Hall of Famers) going crazy once they get the rest provided in the playoffs and knocking out a top seed, and (b) since the Jazz is more of a long term rival for the Rockets players, better to delay the growth of their young guns by denying them playoff seasoning for one more year.
So it is obvious, get the rest and get the Lakers into the playoffs.
However, right now the Rockets are tied with the Warriors. If the Rockets have a chance to get into the 6th spot in the playoffs, one would think they should take it. Or should they. The Spurs seems a little out of sorts and seem the likely two seed. The Nuggets are the likely three seed. The Nuggets have Dre Iggy, who happens to be one of the few guys in the league who can really contain and almost even shut down Harden. Also the Nuggets have been playing great. Maybe it is better for the Rockets to remain in the 7th spot and play the Spurs instead of starting the playoffs in Denver.
I think if the rockets can avoid the Thunder or the Spurs they will do everything they can to... even if denver is a good deep team. Spurs and Thunder have better rosters and experience and coaching.
I actually think the Rockets have a better chance at beating the Thunder than a chance at beating any other team.
The top-2 scoring teams in the league meeting up for the first round is sure to have some fireworks. Not to mention, we're 0-4 vs Denver this season. I think if it comes down to a shoot-out against OKC, the Rockets definitely have a chance, especially with all the fire-power we have.
As good as the spurs are I'm not entirely sold on them completely. Considering what harden did to them last year in the playoffs he has to be feeling good about playing them as well as having asik to guard Duncan where I can think he can do a pretty decent job (he won't lock him down of course but should make things more difficult) the rockets are a high tempo team but I don't really think they would want a high tempo series against the nuggets when the nuggets have home court advantage and have rarely lost at hone this year I think only 3 total loses at home. Plus having iggy will make things very difficult on harden where the spurs have some good perimeter defenders but nobody who has shown they can guard harden. Harden is averaging around 30ppg against the spurs this year and I'm sure we remember what he did to them last year in the playoffs
I don't think that they are just going to hand the game to the Lakers. They are the 6th seed as of now, and I think that they want to sustain their #6 seed so that they can play against Denver rather than San Antonio. Denver is a powerhouse, though, and are crazy in the fast break. Injuries to Gallinari and now Faried could be a huge problem for them, though, and so I think that they would rather play them than a team that went to the Western Conference Finals last year, and has a great chance to do so again
Hmm good point on the injuries. Going back to Feb 23, when the Nuggets 15 game win streak started, they are 21 and 3, which would be like winning at the rate of a 71 win season. So over the last 24 games the Nuggets have been ridiculous. Let's not forget that this is a good team that added a US Olympian for basically free this season. This team being very good is actually what was expected. But they've lost a starter. And they might start the playoffs with another starter on the bench. It does weaken them. I still think that Dre Iggy guarding Harden is basically the worst matchup the Rockets can face in the entire league. But it isn't like the Spurs wouldn't cause problems. If Duncan got Asik in foul trouble and thereby sent him to the bench, then the Rockets are done as well. And the Rockets don't have to worry as much about the Nuggets centers drawing fouls. (For those that don't know, when Asik sits, the Rockets D drops down to near the bottom of the league; that just isn't viable against a playoff caliber opponent.)
Well either way, I think the Rocket's goal is to just win a playoff game or two this year. Beating any of the top three West Coast teams is just very unlikely. This series is really just a learning experience for this team, which is I think the youngest to ever have made the NBA playoffs.