The Houston Rockets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday behind James Harden’s 37 points. The star guard has been in fine form all season as he is getting his Rockets ready to blast into the playoffs.
The NBA season is coming down to the wire and teams in contention for a playoff spot are gearing up for what is known as the “second” season of the league. If you listen to LeBron James and the Heat it is the “real” season. This is what teams and players really feel. The regular season is just a warm up to the real battle. They struggle, scratch and bite through 82 games just to get the chance at the playoffs and fight, and scratch some more for the Larry O’Brian Trophy.
As an indicator of how stacked the Western Conference is this year, the Rockets would be the 4th seed if the playoffs began today. In contrast, if the Rockets were in the East they would be tied for the 2nd seed with two-time champs, the Miami Heat.
Many experts are predicting that the 2014 playoffs will be one of the most competitive in league history. The playoffs are what it is all about for players and the Rockets are ready to blast to a new level. Having two top ten players at their positions doesn’t hurt. Dwight Howard has shaken off the image of past seasons of him being an unmotivated, under-achiever who is more concerned about his next destination than playing to win today. He has returned to his Orlando Magic form and has been healthy. James Harden has set himself up as one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. He gets buckets as easily as anyone. He is looking forward to trying to prove the Oklahoma Thunder were wrong not to keep him.
Harden scored 37, with 17 of that coming in the 3rd period. He did it without Howard in the line-up, which should scare most teams. The two stars have formed a good chemistry that has translated into 47 wins. When Howard returns after missing his 3rd straight game due to a sore ankle, the two will get back to dominating with their inside, outside game. Harden was overwhelming in almost every aspect of the game. He hit five 3-pointers, made 14 free throws and had 11 assists. If he had played the 4th period his numbers would have been off the charts.
Truly, NBA fans are set for a historic march to the championship. Any team in the West could emerge as the overall champion. The battle will be won via matchups, because from a talent standpoint almost every team is stacked. That brings about much intrigue and drama that is sure to have fans drooling, game after game.
The likely match ups for the first round have the Rockets pitted against either the Portland Trailblazers or the Golden State Warriors. Both opponents bring a lot to the floor but with Lemarcus Aldridge hurting for the Blazers, that could be the easier match up for the Rockets. The “Splash Brothers” near the bay for Golden State are scary. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can rain down jumpers at will. That matchup will prove a test for Houston. No matter who they face in the first round, Houston is ready for the playoffs to begin and blast off to the championship against the winners of the East.
Editorial by Tony Bowers