Houston Rockets Odds: Potential Showdown With Warriors For Final West Play-In Spot

Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated

For weeks now, most discussions of NBA playoff odds have assumed some basic truths. One is that the LA Lakers and Golden State Warriors will meet in the West play-in. The Houston Rockets, however, have suddenly cast doubt on that. Suddenly just a 1/2 game behind the Warriors, are Houston Rockets odds worth a look as a possible party crasher?

We’ll take a look at how each team has arrived at this point and what their paths to the play-in look like going forward.

Houston Rockets Playoff Odds Suddenly Realistic

Entering its March schedule, Houston sat at 25-34, with seemingly no hope of a playoff appearance. Coach Ime Udoka’s first year had yielded progress, to be sure, but it looked like the team needed another season before contending for a playoff spot.

Instead, the Rockets have ripped off 11 wins in 12 games. Meanwhile, the Warriors have scuffled to seven losses in their past 11.

Add it up, and what once looked like an insurmountable cushion has all but disappeared. Suddenly, the Rockets harbor realistic hopes to crash the play-in party and leave the Warriors on the outside looking in. They’re just a game back in the loss column, and they would draw even on Tuesday night if the Warriors drop a road game in Miami. Currently, they’re favorites with a slew of Miami rotation players banged up or already out.

With the Rockets visiting the Thunder on Wednesday, however, they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to either keep pace with the Warriors or hold a newfound advantage.

Warriors Have Schedule, Health Edges

Perhaps most impressively, the Rockets have closed this gap largely without Alperen Sengun. Averaging 21.3/9.3/5, the young Turkish center has been arguably Houston’s best player. He leads the team in Box Plus/Minus, although his on/off numbers have some of the analytics skeptical due to the team’s poor defense when he’s on the court (18th percentile per Cleaning The Glass).

Sengun is expected to miss the rest of the season with a severe ankle sprain.

Unfortunately for Houston, its injury issues don’t stop with Sengun. Tari Eason is out for the year as well, and promising rookie Cam Whitmore will ride pine until at least early April with a knee injury.

That the Rockets have fought through these maladies is a credit to the healthy players and Udoka’s coaching. But, with every key contributor currently healthy, the Warriors find themselves in better shape heading into the season’s final 10-ish games.

Golden State also possesses an edge in the remaining schedules.

Both teams are lopsided in favor of road games going forward, but that figures to hurt the Rockets more. They’ve exhibited a large split (26-11 at home, 10-24 on the road), which isn’t unusual for young teams. Golden State’s splits have been more even (18-19 at home, 18-15 on the road).

The Rockets also play just three teams currently out of the playoff picture, while the Warriors get six, though that includes an April 4 date between these two. That game could loom large, and Houston gets to host. Golden State already has the tiebreaker with two prior wins, though.

Houston does have one fewer back-to-back. Here’s the full remaining schedule for each:

March 26 @ MIAMarch 27 @ OKC
March 27 @ ORLMarch 29 @ UTAH
March 29 @ CHAMarch 31 vs. DAL
March 31 @ SAApril 2 @ MIN
April 2 vs. DALApril 4 vs. GS
April 4 @ HOUApril 5 vs. MIA
April 5 vs. DALApril 7 @ DAL
April 7 vs. UTAApril 9 vs. ORL
April 9 @ LALApril 11 @ UTA
April 11 @ PORApril 12 @ POR
April 12 vs. NOApril 14 @ LAC
April 14 vs. UTA

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Projections Like Warriors’ Chances But See Value In Houston Rockets Odds

With the friendlier schedule and the stronger preseason priors, it’s no surprise that publicly available projections still expect the Warriors to finish ahead of the Rockets. Basketball Reference, ESPN, and TeamRankings all project a roughly two-game final edge — about 43 wins to 41.

However, the odds are long enough that all of the projections see value in Houston Rockets odds. ESPN has the Rockets at just shy of 20% to reach the play-in. Basketball Reference is even more bullish, giving them more than a 26% chance.

The current +550 number on DraftKings Sportsbook has around a 15% breakeven point. If you’re a believer in the projection systems, there’s quite a bit of value on Houston Rockets odds as longshots to reach the play-in. You’re buying high, but the market may still be too short on Houston’s chances.

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