The Western conference standings are still very tight between the 5th to the 9th seeded teams (3 1/2 games separate them), but the Rockets gave themselves a little breathing room this weekend. They've won 3 games in a row (all on the road), 7 of their last 10, and passed up the Mavericks for the 6th seed in the standings. With 10 games left, they still have a good shot to pass Memphis who they trail by 1 1/2 games, and even an outside show of passing the Clippers (trail by 3 games) for the 4th seed and home court advantage in the 1st round. Their next 5 games are very important but also very winnable.
The Rockets play at Portland tonight, then come home for games against Utah and Phoenix, before a home-road back-to-back against Denver. If the Rockets go at least 3-2 over that stretch with those wins over Utah, Phoenix and Denver at home; we can start printing playoff tickets. That won't lock it up mathematically, but that scenario would give them the tie-breaker over Utah and Phoenix with easy games remaining against New Orleans and a home game against the Warriors. Of course as I've written about in previous articles, they seem to struggle against the bad teams.
With Kyle Lowry returning, and the Rockets playing well, it looks like the playoffs (starts April 28th) could be an exciting time and not just a quick exit. If I had the chance to pick their opponent, I think playing the Spurs gives them their best chance at an upset.