The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are in last place in their respective divisions, but the Rockets have much more reason for optimism considering their overall standing in the Western Conference.
As the teams head into their final meeting of the season, Houston might also be encouraged by its recent dominance in this series.
The Rockets look to put a January slump behind them and make a move in the playoff chase with their ninth straight win over the Warriors on Tuesday night in Houston.
Houston is in last place in the Southwest Division, while Golden State occupies the Pacific basement. Unlike the Warriors (13-33), the Rockets (25-22) are still very much in the mix in a crowded playoff race.
Houston is one of 11 teams in the conference with a winning record, but lost nine of 14 in January to fall out of the playoff field. The Rockets trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half Sunday before rallying to force overtime and eventually falling 115-111 at home against Phoenix.
“The guys really played hard,” said coach Rick Adelman, whose club shot 37.7 percent from the field - its lowest mark in more than a month. “We competed, but we didn’t shoot it well all night long. We hung in there and had a chance to win the game. But we just have to keep competing like that. If we compete like that we’ll be OK.”
Adelman, who coached Golden State from 1995-97, has to be encouraged by his team’s February performance in his two seasons at the helm. The Rockets were 8-3 last February after going 12-0 during the month in 2008 - part of a franchise-record 22-game winning streak.
The Rockets have also played well against the Warriors lately, winning eight straight in the series, including both meetings this season by a combined three points. Houston has taken the teams’ last two meetings at Toyota Center by an average of 18.0 points.
Golden State has lost its last five overall, including a 112-104 defeat at Oklahoma City on Sunday that dropped the Warriors to 4-20 on the road.
The Warriors, who have used 24 different lineups this season in part because of injuries, lost for the 23rd time in the last 30 games.
“It’s tough, man, because we’re really trying to figure out our chemistry and I think we did a lot of good things tonight, but still it’s tough when you have guys in and out and we’ve got new guys coming in and we’re still really trying to figure out our chemistry,” forward Corey Maggette(notes) said.
“That’s the difference with a lot of teams. A lot of teams are not hurt like we are. We’re not making excuses, but a lot of teams have chemistry because they know their guys.”
Maggette is averaging 25.5 points and shooting 55.9 percent in 24 games since Dec. 12, but he’s been held to 12.0 points per game and 26.9 percent shooting (7 for 26) against the Rockets this season.