For the past few seasons, there has been constant criticism on both James Harden and Russell Westbrook for certain playoff letdowns. The Rockets and Thunder have each had their fair share of tough losses in the playoffs, and their stars have been to blame by fans. However, let’s look at a few reasons why the Rockets can shock everybody and finally get it done this season.
For starters, both their star guards are well-rested, giving them no excuse. Both shoulder a huge load in the playoffs and all season, with huge usage rates on offense. Harden constantly has the ball in his hands, and Russ uses his athletic ability well on both ends, but tends to slow down at the end of the year. With all the rest for these two, we should expect their very best for the rest of the season.
The Rockets also have tons of playoff experience on their roster now, as their players have been in tough playoff games every year for the past 5+ seasons. Their core of Gordon, Harden and Westbrook are looking to shed the demons of past playoff mishaps, and look primed to finally take the next step. Having veterans like Chandler and Tucker will only help support these guys through the grind of the next few months.
Finally, the style of play the Rockets use, despite the memes and fans bashing it, can be very successful, especially if they are the ‘inferior’ team. They play a different way from any other team, and their small ball, full three point lineup is completely unique to any team in the playoffs. These types of teams are the ones who pull off college basketball upsets, and with the talent the Rockets have, there is a chance they can do the same.
Now, I am not saying the Rockets are a favorite in any way, and the West is still stacked, but they have their best chance in a few years to make a serious run. They are no longer incompetent defensively, and still have two of the best guards in the league. If I was the Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets, I would be very nervous about matching up with Houston this year.