The rampaging Houston Rockets fell to their 16th loss of the season on Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which marked the second defeat in the last four games played. However, the Rockets have already secured the top overall spot in the Western Conference as well as the entire league.
With two more games left this season, there isn’t much left for the team to play for heading into the playoffs. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, James Harden voiced following Saturday’s loss that he doesn’t know if the starters will play in those last two contests.
James Harden on the Rockets’ goals for their Cali trip to end the regular season: “Just keep our rhythm. Keep our rhythm, keep our intensity up and that’s pretty much it.” I’d be surprised if starters play much, if at all, in game 82 at Sacramento.
The Rockets are set to finish on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings. There doesn’t remain any incentive for Mike D’Antoni to risk injury to any of his key starters in that stretch. If D’Antoni were to decide to play his starter, it would be in a limited fashion for that unit in particular with Harden and Chris Paul.
Such is the case for Paul, who has dealt with his slew of injuries this season playing in just 56 games. This could likely result in the 32-year-old resting one of these contests ahead of the start of the playoffs that begin next weekend.
It has been an impressive season for Houston that has seen them become a dominant team on both ends of the floor. The additions that they have made this season along with the improvements defensively has made them a possible real threat to dethrone the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
Golden State has gone through their fair share of injuries this season that currently has Stephen Curry out of the mix due to another ankle injury. This combined with the inconsistent play this season could be troubling for them to go through the quest of repeating as champions. Even if Curry does return in the playoffs for a possible matchup, it could make for an entertaining deep playoff showdown.