The Houston Rockets can clinch a playoff spot on Monday if the Nuggets lose to the Lakers. The Rockets will almost certainly be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives Houston a 98.4 percent chance of finishing third in the West.
Although there’s still another month left in the regular season, Houston’s most likely first-round opponents according to BPI are the Oklahoma City Thunder or Memphis Grizzlies. There’s over a 90 percent chance that the Rockets will play one of those two teams in the first round.
Houston would likely be fine with either opponent. BPI gives the Rockets an 86 percent chance of beating the Thunder in a playoff series and an 87 percent chance of beating the Grizzlies. The Rockets and Grizzlies split the regular-season series 2-2, and the Rockets have won two of the first three against Oklahoma City. They meet one more time in the regular season, March 26 on ABC.
The Rockets are all about 3-point shooting as they are on pace to smash the NBA record for makes and attempts in a single season. Only two teams have ever won the NBA title after leading the NBA in both 3-point makes and attempts in the regular season.
The good news for Rockets fans? Their team did it both times. The only two titles in franchise history – 1993-94 and 1994-95 – came after Houston led the NBA in both categories in the regular season.
BPI currently projects the Rockets to finish with 56 wins, which would be two shy of their franchise record, set in 1993-94. BPI gives the Rockets a 21 percent chance of tying the franchise record of 58 wins and a 7 percent chance of reaching 59 wins.
Houston has about as balanced of a remaining schedule as possible as it has the 15th-hardest remaining schedule.