The Houston Rockets are one of the younger teams in the NBA, but despite their inexperience, they might be the perfect matchup in a series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs, as they are one of the top scoring teams in the league and should be able to match what Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook do.
The Rockets ended up in the eighth seed after losing their final game to the Lakers 99-95 on Wednesday, but they got a great effort from Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Chandler Parsons, who hit the shot at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. The Lakers and Rockets were guaranteed playoff spots after the Utah Jazz lost, but the winner of the game would end up in the seventh seed while the loser would get the eighth spot. The Lakers now will face the Spurs while the Rockets will play Oklahoma City.
The Rockets couldn't stop the Lakers on Wednesday behind a triple double from Pau Gasol, who had 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists, while Dwight Howard was just as effective, scoring 16 points and 18 rebounds. The Lakers won their eighth time in nine games and avoided having to play the Thunder without star Kobe Bryant, who is out for the rest of the playoffs with an Achilles injury.
Parsons gave the Rockets the chance to win their way into the seventh seed after making a long 3-pointer at the end of regulation, but the Lakers were able to hold of Lin and company to secure the victory and the series against the Spurs. Houston finished the season by losing four of the last six games of the year, but with an inspiring performance against the Lakers, the team should have momentum against the Thunder, a team they lost to two out of three games this year.
The biggest factors for the Rockets in the series will be the performances by point guard Jeremy Lin and forward James Harden, who will be facing his former team after being traded by the Thunder right before the start of the season. The Thunder won two of three games against the Rockets this year, but all three have been high scoring affairs, with at least one in each game scoring 120 points or more.
Harden will be motivated while playing his old team, while Lin would like to prove he can lead a winner in the playoffs and based on the past games played, Houston knows it can keep up score with the Thunder. In Houston's win Harden had 46 points while Lin led the way with 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds, besting a triple double from Kevin Durant and 28 points from Thabo Sefolosha.
The Rockets were the top ranked scoring team on average for most of the season, but they finished in second with 106 points per game while allowing 102, ranked 28th in the league. The Thunder will take advantage of that defense, but Houston has the chance to put up points and that will enable them to stay close in the series. Lin has been solid for most of the season and he will need to be on the top of his game to best Westbrook and Durant.