The 2019-2020 NBA regular season has ended with the first round of the playoffs around the corner. Houston Rockets is one of the teams looking to go all the way to this season’s finals and win their first NBA Championship in 25 years. The Rockets finished the regular season as the fourth seed in the Western Conference with a decent 44-28 win-loss record and a .611 win percentage. Despite the abundance of talents in the team, the Rockets have had mixed results since the restart. The Rockets won four and lost four of their last eight regular-season games. They finished the season with three consecutive defeats after suffering a humiliating 134-96 to Philadelphia 76ers in the final match of the 2019-2020 regular season. To be fair, Head Coach Mike D’Antoni rotated his team, with only a few of the vital players featuring in the game.
Up next for the Rockets is a first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, starting from next week.
Ahead of the 7-game series against the Thunder, we take a look at some of the questions surrounding Houston Rockets and their chances in the first round of the playoffs.
Can Houston Rockets cope without the injured Russell Westbrook?
Houston Rockets will be without their influential Point Guard, Russell Westbrook, who is currently on the sidelines with a strained quadriceps muscle. There are rumors that Westbrook could miss the first few playoff games against his former team, Oklahoma City Thunder, which could be a big blow for the Rockets in their quest to win the NBA title this year.
Russell Westbrook’s move from Oklahoma City Thunder to the Rockets last summer saw him reunite with his ex-OKC teammate James Harden. Westbrook’s arrival at Houston has created an excellent partnership between himself and James Harden. Throughout the season, the Westbrook-Harden combo reaped a lot of successes for the Rockets in the regular season. Harden’s arrival also took a lot of pressure off Harden as the Rockets relied on him the most for victories in recent seasons.
In 57 regular-season games for the Rockets, Westbrook was a crucial player in the offense as he averaged 27.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game and 7.0 assists per game. He also averaged 1.6 steals per game and 4.5 turnovers per game. Westbrook also made a career-best 47.2 percent of his shots.
In Westbrook’s absence, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will have to rely on James Harden to another produce excellent performance to ensure they pick up an all-important win over Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of the series.
Will Austin Rivers step up and prove his worth for the Rockets?
Westbrook’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for another Houston Rockets Point Guard in the frame of Austin Rivers to get playing time and impress.
Rivers made the headlines recently as he recorded a career-high 41 points in the Houston Rockets’ 129-112 win over the Sacramento Kings in their fifth game after the restart. The game against the Kings was his best-ever performance for the Rockets since joining them in December 2018 after being waived by the Phoenix Suns.
In the game against the Kings, Rivers featured in a prominent offensive role and enjoyed having the ball often and scoring for the team. Rivers was also 14-of-20 from the floor and 6-of-11 from 3-point range. Rivers was also 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in 33 minutes during the game. Rivers recorded 19 points in the first half to help his team recover from an early 13-point deficit. He also scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to increase his team’s lead and seal a significant win for the Rockets.
His excellent performance in that game was a reminder of how good he can be for the Rockets if he gets a lot of minutes on the court. Despite making 68 total appearances for the Rockets in the regular season, Rivers started in only four games with an average of 23.6 minutes per game. In terms of his numbers this season, Rivers is averaging 8.9 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, and an additional 1.7 assists per game. He also has a 42.1 % for Field-goal percentage and 35.6% for 3-Point Field Goal Percentage. He could be integral for the Rockets in the game against Oklahoma City Thunder if he gets the chance to start the game and play alongside James Harden.