The Houston Rockets had high hopes for this season when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite teaming up the former MVP with James Harden, the Rockets were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.
A critical factor in the Rockets’ shortcomings in the post-season had to do with the lack of elite impact from Westbrook. Houston is built around their two stars and if either one of them is unable to play at such a high-level, they aren’t in a position to defeat a team like the Lakers.
After the Rockets’ elimination from the post-season, Westbrook made it clear he’s not making excuses, but stated his quad was not at 100 percent.
“It wasn’t 100%, but I’m not the guy to make excuses. I like to compete,” Westbrook said, via Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports. “But it is what it is. Obviously an injury like this takes a couple of weeks. I didn’t have time for that.”
It doesn’t seem fair to give the Rockets a pass just because Westbrook’s quad wasn’t fully healthy. The greatest problem they faced was his inability to convert on jump shots consistently and that’s been a mechanical issue that has yet to be fixed.
For the Rockets to be able to take the next step, it would help to improve the roster. However, there is a need for Westbrook to dig down deep and make necessary changes to his shooting mechanics to improve is execution. Not being enough of a reliable threat is too much to overcome.
It’s difficult to think about the Rockets’ elimination after seeing what Chris Paul had achieved against them in the previous series. Houston could have potentially stacked up better with the Lakers had they had Paul as opposed to Westbrook.
When considering James Harden was a key reason in Paul being traded away from the Rockets, that has to warrant criticism, too. The style of play Houston has adopted to cater to Harden has been tremendous for his individual stats, but has yet to translate to an NBA Finals appearance.
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