HANG TIME, Texas — Well, the Hornets are changing their name to the Pelicans next season. Maybe the Rockets just wanted to get in on the excitement and fun of their own identity switch.
The Houston Doormen?
The Rockets couldn’t have been more accommodating to the lowly Suns if they had carried their luggage, rolled out the red carpet for the Warriors and in the process set themselves up to fall through a trapdoor in the playoff race. Houston could have taken a step closer to clinching the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference on Monday night, but now face a must-win game on Wednesday against the Lakers in L.A. to avoid the No. 8 spot.
It is the story of a young team, in fact the youngest in the entire league, not coming into a game against a losing team with the proper sense of urgency and respect. The Rockets allowed the Suns to beat them down the floor most of the night for fastbreak buckets and also pound the ball inside in the paint.
You could chalk it up to former Rockets Luis Scola and Goran Dragic wanting to get in their licks against their former team. Scola showed off all of his veteran wiles, hitting 11 of his 16 shots for 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Dragic piled up 21 points and handed out 14 assists.
Houston’s James Harden shot 5-for-18 and finished with just 16 points, Jeremy Lin shot 8-for-19 and the Rockets turned the ball over 16 times.
Give the Suns, who’ve been accused of tanking games, credit for playing their final home game of the season with pride. But give the blame to a Rockets that was a half-step slow from the opening tip and never played as if their there was anything on the line. Which, of course, there was.
Now the Rockets must win against the desperate Lakers on Wednesday and have the Warriors lose at Portland in order to claim the No. 6 seed. If both the Rockets and Warriors win, Houston will finish seventh and face No. 2 seed San Antonio.
If the Rockets and Warriors both lose, Houston will finish eighth and open the playoffs against No. 1 seed Oklahoma City, a matchup with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that nobody wants.
If the Lakers beat the Rockets, the Warriors are sixth regardless and L.A. will finish seventh and play the Spurs.
In that case, you have to figure the Houston Doormen will at least have earned a nice tip.