After beating the San Antonio Spurs 109-93 on Monday night, the Houston Rockets moved two games ahead of the Golden State Warriors to open a nice cushion at the top of the Western Conference.
The defending champions lost back-to-back road games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston have taken full advantage.
They own the best record in the league at 53-14 and are currently on course to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Doing so would give them their best possible opportunity to beat the Warriors in a potential conference finals matchup and go on to win the championship.
Even though they've clinched a postseason berth, the Rockets are not prepared to take their foot off the gas and see the number one seed as a huge goal for them to accomplish.
“We want to get the number one seed. We think that’s important,” head coach Mike D'Antoni said, according to San Antonio Express’ Tom Osborn.
The victory over the Spurs was made easier by the fact that the visitors were missing key stars such as Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
But the Rockets still approached it professionally and were not prepared to underestimate a slumping San Antonio team.
Superstar James Harden returned to the lineup after missing the previous game against the Dallas Mavericks with a sore left knee and dropped 28 points.
Speaking after the game, the MVP favourite stated that they still have so much to play for this season and are not prepared to take any nights off.
"We don't have the luxury of just taking nights off," he said, per ESPN. "We're not where we want to be. We're not that good yet.
"So we have to go out there and approach every single game, no matter who we're playing, like it's a playoff game. We're 15 games away, so it's time to take it serious."
The Texas-based outfit has a good chance of holding onto the number one spot, especially if they continue playing the way they are.
But it takes much more than home-court advantage to win a championship, particularly if you have to overcome a team like the Warriors, who will not be daunted by a game on the road.
A conference finals meeting between the two is no by no means a foregone conclusion, however, and there will be a lot of work for both teams to do to get to that point. Nonetheless, it's a mouthwatering prospect for NBA fans.
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