HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – It hasn’t always looked like things would finish this way, but a roller-coaster week ended with the Rockets as division champions and owners of the two seed in the Western Conference.
It was only last Friday when the Rockets lost their hold on the top three seeds in the West after back-to-back losses to San Antonio. At the time, with how the schedule was shaping up, Houston was looking at multiple scenarios of postseason positioning. Instead, everything worked out – the Spurs lost at least once, the Grizzlies lost at least twice, and the Rockets never lost again, capped off by Wednesday’s 117-91 blowout of the Jazz. As a result, the Rockets went from sixth seed to second seed in a matter of five days and three wins.
“The West is always interesting to watch all the way until the last game,” said Josh Smith, who finished with 13 points off the bench, including three three-pointers. “It definitely was crazy, but we just wanted to be able to focus on ourselves and take care of our business and not really cheer anybody else on, but just control our own destiny and that’s what we were able to do.”
It’s not like the Southwest Division was an easy one to win, with all five teams making the playoffs out of eight possible slots.
“Especially with a division – you’ve got five teams in the playoffs,” said James Harden, who finished the year with a triple double on Wednesday. “That’s over .500 (records for all). So (winning the division is) a great accomplishment by us. We’re very proud of that. We’re going to let it sink in tonight, kind of sit back and reflect on the great season we’ve had, and get ready for this postseason.”
The Rockets took care of business not just in the past three games, but over the course of the entire season. Their 56 wins marked the third highest mark in franchise history. And they did so with various injuries. Dwight Howard missed half the season. Terrence Jones had two different severe injuries that forced him to miss almost 50 games. Donatas Motiejunas and Pat Beverley had season-ending injuries.
“It shows the character on this team,” Harden said. “We had a lot of adversity this season, a lot of injuries, a lot of things didn’t go our way, but we didn’t complain. We didn’t back down from anything. We kept fighting and just kept battling with whatever came our way.”
“Overall, I think the guys did a good job tonight,” Kevin McHale said. “And to have all the different lineups and to have all the different people hurt and have all the different things happen, for that team to go out and get 56 wins is impressive.”
For the players, getting to 56 wins through the injuries also displayed the coaching job done by McHale and his staff.
“He’s had our back throughout the entire way,” Harden said. “The entire coaching staff (did). They’ve been there. They made sure we were ready, no matter who was in the lineup, to go out there and compete at a high level every single night. (It’s a) credit to those guys for winning the division title.”