Rockets Move To 2.5 Games Of Warriors For Final Play-In Spot

Nobody expected the Houston Rockets to be fighting for the playoffs this late in the season. Not in the wild, wild (and ultra-competitive) Western Conference.Jalen Green, NBA, Houston Rockets

But thanks to Tuesday’s 137-14 spanking of the lowly Washington Wizards, the Rockets are right there.

More specifically, Houston (33-35) has won six straight and is now just 2.5 games back of the Golden State Warriors for the 10th seed in the Western Conference — or the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Oh yeah, the Rockets are also an NBA-best 8-1 in March. So they’re playing their absolute best when it means the most.

Leading the way against the Wizards was rising guard Jalen Green, who tied his career-high by erupting for 42 points.

“I’ve had runs where I’d get hot and cool down,” Green told reporters. “My main goal is just to keep building on the hot streaks and be as consistent as possible and affect the game in ways even when I’m not scoring the ball well.”

Jabari Smith Jr. added 18 points and 14 rebounds.

Interestingly, this was a game the Rockets only led 60-57 at halftime. Then coach Ime Udoka delivered a message.

“My message was: We’re messing around with the game,” he said. “We’re scoring at a high enough clip, but we got to guard.”

As for Green specifically, Udoka offered little but praise before the game.

“The assist numbers, the shooting numbers, the defensive competitiveness, all those areas have really improved,” Udoka said. “It’s not always going to happen overnight, and it’s a little slower for other people, but it’s really been clicking for him. Even before the All-Star break, you could see some signs — the double-doubles in a row, the five-game stretch he had. To put it all together now, it’s even more needed with some guys going down.”

At this point, the Rockets are doing whatever it takes. And despite the preseason projections, they’re in the mix with 14 games to go.

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