As of Sunday morning, the Houston Rockets are but a game-and-a-half out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With every big win by the Rockets, the Grizzlies seem to have a big one of their own to maintain their tenuous hold on that last spot. Here's what's in store for this week's race for the last spot in the Western Conference Playoffs:
Tonight: Rockets at Heat.
A tough matchup with the Miami Heat. The Rockets weren't expected to beat Boston, but they thrashed the Celtics 93-77 at Toyota Center. This of course is a road game, and the Rockets will have to dig deep to keep pace.
Tuesday: Rockets at Nets.
Should be an easy win for Houston, as the Nets are one of the worst teams in the league. Houston has no business making the playoffs if they can't win this one with ease.
Wednesday: Rockets at 76ers.
Philly isn't going to go any higher than number six in the East, but they could absolutely drop lower if they have a late-season letdown. They'll be looking to build playoff momentum and have a very respectable 23-11 home record.
Friday: Spurs at Rockets.
The Rockets return home after an East road swing on Friday. Their reward? Another date with the Spurs, who they will face in the first round if they're able to overtake Memphis. The Rockets have played San Antonio tough all season long, but don't have a win to show for it in three games. Two of those three losses were by a total of five points.
The Grizzlies have a tough slate this week, with a pair of home games hosting the Spurs and the Warriors, and a road date with the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets are in a pitched battle with Portland for the sixth seed in the West, so they won't be giving an inch.
If the Grizzlies drop two of these three games and Houston pulls out three of their four this week, the Rockets could be in good shape to take that final spot IF and only IF they then win the games they should win to finish the year.
Prediction for the week: While in this space a few weeks back I proclaimed the Rockets' run to be a case of Fool's Gold, I fully admit how wrong I was. Even if they don't make the postseason, this run has been legitimate, especially after that thrashing of Boston. A win over Miami on the road would certainly go a long way, but I think this week's slate of games will see Houston go 2-2. The Heat and 76ers take the good guys down, but Houston pounds New Jersey and finally gets a win over San Antonio on Friday. I want to be wrong about that Philadelphia game. I really do.