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NBA Playoff Picture: The Houston Rockets Were Not Screwed By The System

Yes, the Rockets are going to be the team with the best record that gets left out of the playoffs. Yes, the Rockets would have made the playoffs...as a six seed, had they been able to relocate to the Eastern Conference. That doesn't mean they got shafted, argues SB Nation's Jon Bois, who put together a couple of fancy charts of shafted teams and figured out that Major League Baseball, not the NBA, is the sport that keeps it's high-win teams out of the playoffs most often.

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And the NBA is the league with a healthy sample size of games to determine a team's worth, and only one condition (a single partition between the East and West) by which its playoff format must abide. Consider the NFL's relatively tiny sample size and eight divisions, or baseball's scarcity of playoff berths, and it's clear: postseasons aren't necessarily about pitting the best teams against one another. If you are the last team in, you are probably not one of the league's elite. You're just a gaggle of color-coordinated men who got suckered into working overtime.

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That's the main point to be grabbed here. Yes, the Rockets would have kept playing in a fair system, but they had plenty of opportunities to grab their playoff spot by playing better basketball. They lost a scourge of games in the last minutes that they shouldn't have, they anchored themselves to Aaron Brooks even when he was playing terrible basketball, they didn't have a great backup plan for replacing Yao Ming's defensive contributions.

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And frankly, they didn't deserve to make it this year. Outside of the Golden State-Dallas upset in 2007, these lower seeds almost never bounce the true elite of the NBA anyway. We were deprived of six or seven games of the Rockets trying to hang with the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat because the NBA doesn't have a wild card system. It's not something worth complaining about. The Rockets only had to be better than a 46 win team. They weren't.

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