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Rockets Much-Improved Lately, But All I See Is Fool's Gold

Even in a league where more than half its teams make the playoffs, a post-season berth has been a pipe dream for this Rockets squad ever since Yao Ming went down for the year yet again.

Lately, the Rockets have been giving their fans a little bit more to cheer for. Since shortly before Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks were shipped out of town for Hasheem Thabeet, Goran Dragic, and a couple of Lottery-protected 1st round picks, the Rockets have won six games out of seven.

Looking back at this recent run, it's hard not to think of the phrase "fool's gold." Wins over bottom-feeders Detroit, Cleveland, New Jersey, and Indiana do nothing to inspire confidence. However, surprising road wins in Portland and New Orleans rightfully raised some eyebrows.

Of course, even bad teams find themselves on hot streaks in the NBA. Sometimes a trade will give the team a shot of needed freshness, or a temporary attitude bump, where they suddenly feel the need to show the world that they aren't quite out of the playoff hunt just yet.

When I look at these Rockets, that is unfortunately what I see. It's great that they've loaded up on wins against bad teams, because the road to the eighth seed (also known as the battle to get obliterated in the first round) is a difficult one.

At this stage of the season, (2.5 games and three teams away from the eighth seed) the Rockets are in must-win mode. Their recent run was derailed by an incredibly athletic, yet typically-bad L.A. Clipper team on the second night of a back-to-back. Those are tough, but that's life in the NBA. 

Three of their next seven games are against teams between their current slot in the West (11th) and where they want to be. This stretch features two games (road, then home) against the ninth-seeded Suns who are 10-4 since February 1st, and home contest against the hated (and reeling) Jazz, the current tenth seed, who are 4-10 in the same time frame.

Winning those three games would go a long way to getting the Rockets into the final playoff spot, but every game against inferior opponents MUST be a win from here on out, and they're going to have to steal a few from teams they have no business beating.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.