The Houston Rockets have elected to go all-small all the time, and it’s worked in the NBA bubble. Here’s a closer look at how the magic happens.
The Houston Rockets won’t have an easy time dealing with the pesky overachieving Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Rockets and Thunder simply seemed to be on a crash course in the NBA bubble in Orlando, and the matchup is upon us starting on Tuesday.
Preseason projections pegged the Thunder as a likely tank candidate following their strategic demolition a year ago, sending Paul George to the LA Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Early indications were that the Thunder would try to flip Chris Paul (whom they received from the Rockets for Westbrook) and plummet in the standings with the hopes of utilizing their newfound war-chest of draft assets to make a quick climb back into contention.
As it happened, they got there without tanking at all, and with the Thunder initially unable to move him, Chris Paul has been a revelation once again.
In a way, this matchup between the Rockets and Thunder was almost predestined. Especially with the Utah Jazz eager to avoid the Rockets like the plague in the first round after meeting horrid ends at their hands the last couple seasons, and the Thunder refusing to do anything but win all season, it’s a match made in heaven.
Or it was, at least, until Russell Westbrook was ruled out for “at least the start of the playoffs” as Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen vaguely reported.
This is a complication, to say the least. For starters, it diminishes the battle between Westbrook’s new team and his former team, and it leaves the Rockets at less than full strength in their duel against Chris Paul, a legend who the organization was happy to move off of but has exceeded everybody’s wildest expectations.
These are just narrative reasons, mind you. They’ll play on Sportscenter and various corners of NBA Twitter, but the bigger impact of Westbrook’s indeterminate absence will be felt on the court, especially for the Houston Rockets who utilized a revolutionary all-small all-the-time strategy to unlock his unique talents.