HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – We knew the Rockets chances of making the Western Conference playoffs were little more than a prayer.
An ill-timed six-game losing streak last week had made it so, but this little issue called math still afforded the Rockets and ultimately us a slither hope. Well that hope was taken away Sunday when the Miami Heat stomped all over the Rockets playoff dreams with a 99-88 win.
The Rockets (33-32) can now truly focus on finishing out the regular-season the way during their regular-season finale against New Orleans on Thursday night at Toyota Center. The eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race will be decided between Phoenix and Utah after the Rockets failed to win out in their final three games to have the slimmest of chances.
But should we be surprised or even disappointed? Sure, the Rockets gave us some hope with an unexpected four-game winning streak on the road that included victories at Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers of all places. After playing above their talents in those four games, they returned home and had a collapse that can only be described as stunning.
With their playoff chances on the line, the Rockets proceeded to lose straight games and have now lost seven of eight down the stretch. Clearly these Rockets weren’t ready for the primetime, but some tough and gritty play in spurts combined with a lockout-shortened season gave the false appearance they were.
But in the end we saw a team that built early leads and hope only to fade during the all-important second half. The Rockets played true to that form Sunday, leading the Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-less Heat by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but started to fall apart in the second quarter.
Unlike many of the games during this stretch, however, the Rockets continued to fight throughout much of the second half until LeBron James took over in the fourth quarter. James scored 11 of his game-high 32 points in the final six minutes to slam the door on the Rockets and their playoff chances.
To think just two weeks ago the Rockets were as high as sixth in the Western Conference playoff standings and now they are way on the outside after an epic collapse. Instead of celebrating a playoff berth we are left to accept the reality of a third straight year the Rockets will not be involved in the NBA postseason.