The Houston Rockets are the West’s only team currently outside the playoff picture that still has a chance to fight its way in. At 41-36, they stand three games behind the 44-33 New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzles with five games to play. They no longer control their destiny when it comes to making the postseason. Here are some scenarios:
If Houston goes 5-0 the rest of the way, the Grizzlies or Hornets must go 2-3 for the Rockets to top them in the standings.
If Houston closes the season 4-1, the Grizzles or Hornets must go 1-4, and the Rockets’ lone loss can’t be to the Hornets. If it were, then New Orleans would own the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning the Grizzlies would have to foul up for the Rockets to have a chance.
If Houston only manages a 3-2 record in its final five games, the Grizzlies must lose out for the Rockets to get in. The teams would finish with identical records, but the Rockets would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Because the Rockets play the Hornets in one of their final five games, they cannot catch them if they finish 3-2.
Any finish worse than 3-2 will eliminate Houston from the playoffs.
The battle for a postseason spot continues tonight when the Rockets welcome the Sacramento Kings to Toyota Center. The 22-54 Kings are among the league’s worst teams, but have won 6 of their last 10 games, so they could be a tough out.
Tomorrow night’s road meeting with the Hornets is far more pivotal, as it’s practically a must-win for Houston if it wants to catch them. As outlined above, if the Rockets lose this game, they will need the streaking Grizzlies—winners of four straight and eight of their last 10—to collapse.