Few people thought the Houston Rockets could make it this far. They were counted out after falling into a 3-1 hole against the Los Angeles Clippers, only to surge and make a historic comeback in the second round.
Such a feat was not meant to be repeated. Although the Western Conference finals was closer than many would have you believe, the Rockets ultimately took just one victory home with them as Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors advanced.
In the series, Houston could rarely keep up with the Warriors’ offensive production. They lost the first two games in Oakland by a combined five points — James Harden averaged 33 points and nine assists in those games. He scored 45 in their Game 4 win in Houston. When Harden wasn’t playing an excellent game, though, the Rockets sputtered.
That was the case in the closeout contest, in which Harden played what was probably the worst game of his career. He shot 2-for-11 and turned the ball over 13 times, an all-time record for anyone in a playoff contest.
Houston’s lack of complementary playmakers hurt them more than anything in this series. Though their defensive intensity wavered at times, they showed often enough that they’re as capable as anyone at making the Warriors work hard for their buckets.
There’s not a lot that needs to be changed for these Rockets. This is a stellar team, capable of huge things as long as they can keep Dwight Howard on a rest program that has him playing the role of superman rim-protector in the spring. If they run this roster back next year, it’s certainly possible that they could improve and emerge out of the Western Conference.
But the cap space Houston has — about $10 million worth — should be spent on someone who can do more with the ball in his hands. As outstanding as Harden is, he has his limits; everyone does. He can only be a one-man offense for so long.
— John Wilmes