On final road trip, Rockets see value in pursuing .500 or better season

Though they’re eliminated from 2024 postseason contention in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets aren’t without motivation as the NBA’s 2023-24 regular season enters its final days.

After finishing at the bottom of the West in three straight years, the Rockets (39-40) can finish with a .500 record if they win two of their final three games. Those matchups come in Utah on Thursday; Portland on Friday; and Los Angeles versus the Clippers on Sunday.

If they win all, Houston would finish with a winning record. The Rockets have had nothing but losing seasons ever since the forced departure of longtime superstar James Harden in January 2021.

“It’s real important,” Jalen Green said of the finish. “The goal now — since the playoffs [goal] is pretty much over, or play-in — is just to finish above .500. I think we showed a lot of growth this year. I think we have grown all together as a team from the first game to now. We just want to finish above .500 and prepare for next season.”

In a macro sense, what held the Rockets back in the 2023-24 season was their play away from Toyota Center. Only four West teams currently have more home wins than the Rockets (27-14), yet only three West teams are worse than Houston’s 12-26 record on the road.

In recent weeks, however, there have been signs of that dynamic shifting. The Rockets enter this closing road trip having won seven of their last nine on the road, including a seven-game road winning streak during their 13-2 March. Thus, if they can finish the season strong, it should build confidence heading into the 2024-25 season that they’ve finally put the home-road discrepancy behind them.

“I think they’re pretty important,” head coach Ime Udoka said of the finish. “Finishing off on the right note, having carryover in these last games and just finishing on a different vibe than the last few years for the guys that have been here. We want to continue to build.”

“As sour a taste as we have from [Sunday’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Dallas], there are a lot of positives from that game,” Udoka surmised. “We were playing well against a team that is probably one of the best in the league, and kind of gave that away. We want to move past that, and finish on a good step.”

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire