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Apr 3, 2024 11:20 pm

Rockets try to stay in playoff chase, host streaking Warriors

jalen green

With just seven games remaining in the regular season, the Houston Rockets have to act fast if they want to land in the play-in tournament.

Houston is three games back of the final play-in spot in the Western Conference, but it will have a great chance to make up some ground Thursday when hosting the Golden State Warriors.

Just last month, it looked like the Rockets (38-37) were destined for the postseason when they rattled off 11 straight wins from March 8-29 to pull within one game of Golden State for the final play-in spot.

But Houston has since slipped, dropping back-to-back games against the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves to fall further out of the playoff picture.

“I wouldn’t say any more (important) than these last few games,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said of Thursday’s matchup. “It’s the team in front of us, but these games (against Dallas and Minnesota) were just as important honestly, in my opinion.

“To get Dallas, to get Minnesota, continue to put pressure on the person in front of you, then it can really mean something.”

Jalen Green paced Houston with 26 points in Tuesday’s 113-106 loss to the Timberwolves. Fred VanVleet finished with 22 points and Jabari Smith Jr. added 18 to go along with eight rebounds.

As the Rockets struggle to stay afloat, things have been looking up for the Warriors (41-34).

Golden State is riding a five-game winning streak, most recently edging the Mavericks 104-100 on Tuesday. Andrew Wiggins had 23 points as one of six scorers in double figures for the Warriors, who also received 14 points apiece from Klay Thompson and Chris Paul.

Defense has been the key to Golden State’s recent success, with the Warriors holding opponents to 100 points or fewer in four of the five victories.

“It’s funny, all season, we sort of just, we didn’t know where to be. Just, sometimes guys not there,” Paul said. “I think we’re starting to understand that defense is what we’ve got to be able to hang our hat on.

“You know the offense, we got some amazing shooters and scorers and whatnot, but if we defend, that opens everything else up.”

Even with the tight play-in race, Paul isn’t worried about the standings.

“Once upon a time probably,” Paul said of when he would keep up to date with other teams’ records. “But now I just try to worry about what we are doing. That’s the only thing you can control. Ain’t nothing going to happen in the standings unless you win.”

If Houston can find a way to reach the play-in tournament, it will have a chance to secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2020. The Rockets had reached the postseason eight years in a row prior to their current drought.

Thursday marks the finale of the three-game season series between the teams. Golden State won at Houston 106-95 on Oct. 29 before prevailing in San Francisco 121-116 on Nov. 20.

–Field Level Media

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