After three seasons of settling forwinning seasons but only good fort 9th place in the Western Conference standings. Red Nation, the Houston Rockets are back in the NBA Playoffs, and yeah as a member of Red Nation for over 10 years now since a 7’6” center from China named Yao Ming joined the Rockets and with the players that have come and go like Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Rafer Alston, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowryand Kevin Martin to name some, I’m excited to blog about the Rockets’ playoff run this year. Though there‘s the huge possibility it will be a short one. However, it‘s been four years since I wrote about the Rockets in the playoffs. I‘m gonna make this count.
In the First Round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Rockets are seeded #8 in the Western Conference after suffering a final game defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in L.A. to bump up to #7 in the standings. The loss still bites me, especially I suffered the wrath of rants by the Laker Nation here in the Philippines. Anyway, they will face the reigning Western Conference Champions and this year’s top seed in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It will be a fun matchup as last season’s Sixth Man of the Year and now the face of the franchise in James Harden will battle his former teamin the Thunderwhich are led by his good ol’ buddies and co-Olympic gold medalists in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The spotlight may be on these three men. However, there is more to this match-up as both teams are two of the highest scoring teams in the NBA this season and both teams have very young rosters.The Thunder will have an advantage defensively as they are second in field goal defensebehind the Indiana Pacers and have more playoff experience than the Rockets. The Rockets will look to use their high-pace offense where they light up the scoreboard every game and look to make use of theirthree-point as they are among the league leaders in three points made as a team in the NBA.
The focus of this series may be the matchup between Harden vs Durant and Westbrook. But there are other players on both sides to watch out for.
For the Rockets, the first man to watch out is Jeremy Lin which will get a taste of the playoffs for the first time in his young but already storied NBA career, as he was unable to play for the Knicks during the playoffs with an injury, Lin played all 82 games this season as the starting point guard and has put up decent numbers, though a little low than his Linsanity numbers, he’s gotten better defensively as his steals went up and his turnovers went down. Also taking a first taste of the playoffs would be sophomore forward Chandler Parsons who is the only guy left from the Rockets roster last season, Parsons is the second best scorer for the Rockets after Harden and will be a factor for the Rockets chances in the playoffs. Omer Asik, one of the league‘s top rebounders has playoff experience, however his minutes were limited in Chicago serving as the backup center for the Bulls to Joakim Noah. Now, he’ll get starters minutes in the playoffs as the starting center of the Rockets. The rest of the Rocketsare making their first playoff appearance with the exceptions of Carlos Delfino, Francisco Garcia, James Anderson and a relic from the Rockets 2009 playoff run in one-time Most Improved Player Awardee Aaron Brooks who was instrumental in the Rockets playoff push in that season.
As for the Thunder, they’ll be looking to get back to the NBA Finals after a bitter conclusion last season at the hands of the Miami Heat. Aside from Durant and Westbrook, Serge Ibaka who has improved offensively to complement his great defense will also play a part in the Thunder’s playoff push. Harden’s replacement as The Sixth Man in OKC Kevin Martin will be the X-Factor for the Thunder as he has a polished offensive game but with a significant letdown on his defensive game. The Thunder will also look at Thabo Sefolosha and Ronnie Brewer who are two great wing defenders in the NBA today.
Season series recap: Thunder wins series 2-1
*Dates in Philippine time
Game 1, November 29, 2012: Rockets 98-120 Thunder
HOU: Points: Patterson 27, Rebounds: Asik 12, Assists: Lin 8
OKC: Points: Durant 37, Rebounds: Ibaka 9, Assists: Westbrook 9
Game 2, December 30, 2012: Thunder 124-94 Rockets
OKC: Points: Westbrook 28, Rebounds: Ibaka & Collison 10, Assists: Westbrook 8
HOU: Points: Harden 25, Rebounds: Asik & Smith 8, Assists: Lin 7
Game 3, February 21, 2013: Thunder 119-122 Rockets
OKC: Points: Westbrook & Sefolosha 28, Rebounds: Durant 12, Assists: Durant 11
HOU: Points: Harden 46, Rebounds: Asik 10, Assists: Lin 7
Game 1: Rockets at Thunder, April 22, 9:30 am PHT
Game 2: Rockets at Thunder, April 25, 7:00 am PHT
Game 3: Thunder at Rockets, April 28, 9:30 am PHT
Game 4: Thunder at Rockets, April 30, TBD (Birthday game)
Game 5: Rockets at Thunder, May 2, TBD*
Game 6: Thunder at Rockets, May 4, TBD*
Game 7: Rockets at Thunder, May 6, TBD*
This will be a fun series between the two high octane teams. I’ve been reading through the web about how this series will go. Majority will say the Thunder will win in 5 games. It’s true to say that the Rockets will be the underdogs in this series, because of the fact that the Thunder has more playoff experience and has better defense. However, despite all of these things and pundit talk about the playoffs, I’ll keep on rooting for the Rockets, as well in the history I have of being an NBA fan, most of the times, I eventually root for the underdog. Dating back in 2009 when the Rockets battled the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. Most people were rooting for the then Brandon Roy led Trail Blazers squad to win over the Rockets. However, the Rockets would take the series in 6 games which included a Game 1 victory in Portland which is also a tough city for opposing teams and it was the first time the franchise got out of Round 1 since 1997. So yeah, all I can do now is hope for the best and hopefully this will be a great series.
In victory or defeat, Red Nation for life!