The Houston Rockets’ schedule has been released for the “bubble” games, which are set to begin on July 30 at Walt Disney World.
The Rockets and the other 21 teams in Orlando, Florida will play eight seeding games before the 2020 playoffs begin.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) June 26, 2020
Now that the schedule is out, let’s take a look at the top five games for James Harden and Co.
5. Philadelphia 76ers, August 14
This game will feature five All-Stars in James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Al Horford. Not too shabby.
The Sixers were a terrible road team in 2019-20, but since there won’t be any fans in attendance at these “bubble” games, there’s a chance Philly could go on a serious run and win the whole thing.
The Rockets, though, are one of the best clubs in the NBA with two MVPs in Harden and Westbrook leading the charge. Since Embiid and Harden have a little history, this will surely be an exciting game for basketball fans to watch.
4. Dallas Mavericks, July 31
The first game in the NBA’s restart for the Rockets has them going up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavs racked up 40 wins before the season was suspended in March. Doncic was playing at an MVP level and he’s mastered the stepback 3-pointer, just like Harden.
The Rockets should be favored to win this game since they have the two best players in the series in Harden and Westbrook. However, rust is going to be a huge factor during the “bubble” games and, since this particular contest will be Game No. 1 for the Mavs and Rockets, we could see some ugly basketball on the floor.
However, anytime Harden, Westbrook, Doncic and Porzingis are sharing the floor, you can expect some fireworks on the offensive side of the ball.
3. Portland Trail Blazers, August 4
They may be friends off the court, but once the ball is tipped, Westbrook and Blazers star Damian Lillard are ALWAYS going at each other.
That’s why anytime the Oklahoma City Thunder and Blazers played over the past few years when Westbrook was in OKC, the games were usually put on national television. With Westbrook in Houston playing with Harden again, the games between Russ and Dame have become even more intriguing.
Rest assured that Westbrook still has the image of Lillard waving goodbye to him and his Thunder teammates from last year’s postseason.
2. Milwaukee Bucks, August 2
As all Rockets fans know, Harden is still upset that Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo won the 2019 MVP over him. With that said, the August 2 game will provide Harden with yet another opportunity to show that he’s head-and-shoulders a better player than Giannis.
The Bucks have the best record in the NBA, though, so it’s not going to be an easy task for Harden, Westbrook and Co. to take down Milwaukee.
In the first season of the Harden-Westbrook era, the Rockets have the second-best offense in the NBA in terms of points per game. Houston was averaging 118.1 points per night before games were suspended, so scoring won’t be an issue for them against the Bucks.
However, the Rockets were a poor defensive unit prior to play getting suspended. They were giving up 114.4 points per game. That was 22nd in the NBA and won’t cut it against the Bucks or the other elite teams in the league.
1. Los Angeles Lakers, August 6
The Lakers have the top record in the West and most pundits expect LeBron and AD to guide Los Angeles to the NBA Finals. The Rockets can use this August 6 game to remind everyone that they should be considered title contenders as well.
To defeat the Lakers on August 6 and in the playoffs should the two teams meet, the Rockets are going to have to figure out who is going to stop Davis from feasting in the post. Following the trade of center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks, the Rockets had trouble stopping teams since they had no true big man in the starting lineup.
With all due respect to PJ Tucker, he’s not going to be able to slow down Davis in the paint. If opposing teams are just going to throw the ball into the post and score at will, Westbrook and Harden dominating on offense won’t really matter since the Rockets are still giving up a ton of points.
However, it should be thrilling to watch four superstars in Harden, Westbrook, LeBron, and Davis take the floor together and compete at the highest level. Expect this particular contest to be very high scoring.