Before the NBA abruptly stopped the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Rockets were in the throes of a great experiment, intriguingly embracing a ball lineup while observing another potentially extensive post-season race.
Four or more months later, the Rockets (40-24) will pick up where they left off, facing the Dallas Mavericks (40-27) on Friday in a seeding match at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
The Rockets enter the recovery in sixth place in the Western Conference ranking. With the rest of the regular season and the playoffs that would be disputed in central Florida, the home court advantage concept was devalued, making seeding an exercise to ensure favorable first-round matchups. For teams who envision themselves as title contenders, that work is starting.
“These three preseason games and our practices, we used them as an opportunity to work on our offense and defense and to make sure we are in shape to give us the best chance,” said James Harden, NBA’s lead rocket manager. 34.4 points per game. “It will be a journey, and everyone will compete for a certain goal.”
The Rockets will be blocked from the start after losing reserve guard Eric Gordon to a sprained left ankle that will put him aside for at least two weeks. Houston has great depth to make up for the loss, with Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni identifying Ben McLemore, Jeff Green and Austin Rivers as the main candidates to fill the void. However, Gordon is a key gear that we will miss.
The development of an injury did little to block Houston’s momentum or enthusiasm. It was difficult to understand exactly who the Rockets were once they became small, but now they will have the opportunity to cement their identity and give a tone of expectations to the impending playoffs.
“I think the kids can’t wait, although I think they too had fun with the scrimmages,” said D’Antoni. “But they can’t wait to do it and see what happens as it obviously refers to the playoffs. That’s what we’re here for, and we’re going to use those eight games to try to round off in better shape and get some bottom concepts.” .
The Mavericks are in a different space, having largely exceeded the results before the end of the championship. Dallas shared a couple of previous meetings with the Rockets and demonstrated a compelling matchup thanks to an offense that ranks first for efficiency at 115.8 points per 100 possessions (just before the second position rockets) with the candidate MVP Luka Doncic at the controls.
With the postseason almost assured, the Mavericks in seventh place are looking for a matchup in the first round that offers the greatest opportunity for advancement and offers their young core players a valuable playoff experience. Dallas is not yet a threat to the title, but what the Mavericks accomplish during these seeding games and later in the playoffs could set the tone for their franchise shoot.
“We are a talented team,” Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis told mavs.com, “… and now it’s time for the real deal – for the games of the normal season and then the playoffs. So our level of excitement is going to go up a few levels now. I think we are ready to go. “
– Field level media