With a surprising Game 2 loss at home to the Utah Jazz, all eyes remain on James Harden and the Houston Rockets to avoid another disappointing second-round playoff exit. The NBA’s best regular season team is not only in jeopardy of living up to expectations, but also falling short to the highly anticipated Rockets–Warriors showdown.

The Rockets’ incredible 29-2 stretch left the league in complete awe, and thinking this team could really give the defending champs a run for their money.

There still had been trepidation however with Rockets’ success during the regular season, for they still have to prove themselves in the playoffs. With momentum swinging back to Utah in Game 3, Harden and his team is yet again surrounded with uncertainty.

The future 2018 MVP and his teammate Chris Paul, has to carry Houston in order to win these next two games on the road. Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, will be completely chaotic this weekend – hoping to boost their Jazz to another playoff upset.

A loss this series could be a tale of two different halves for Harden, Paul, and this Rockets team overall. Another early playoff exit could really insinuate a dark cloud over the legacy of these superstars.

Like Harden, Paul too has dealt with his fair share criticism based on his early round exits in the playoffs. This series will not only be huge for them to live up to expectations, but also to improve their playoff pandemonium.

NBA fans need Houston to win this series because they are the best chance against Golden State, not Utah. Though they did not play like it in Game 2, the Jazz are truly the underdogs in this series.

If the Rockets fall short once again, which Western Conference team can actually challenge the Warriors in the near future?

This thought is scary if you look at the state of NBA’s Western Conference. There is beginning to be a lack of parody in the west actually, rather than the east, for the first time in years.

Big questions remain for some of the “premier” teams in the west like: The Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs, and now the Houston Rockets.

The Carmelo Anthony/Paul George experiment in OKC looks like it just will be a one-season trial, after the way things played out in the first round. The Thunder have a lot of questions to address this offseason and
it starts with George.

Rumors of Paul George leaving to join the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the league’s best kept secrets, as he has been open about his love for L.A. for quit some time now. With Anthony’s lackluster performance this season, and especially with a quick playoff exit, George is very likely to leave the Thunder coming this offseason.

The next power team in the west, the Spurs, are about to be in serious rebuild. The once heavily contenders are now going to the be ones fighting for playoff position, specifically with their best player, Kawhi Leonard
leaving next season.

How will the Harden, Paul, and the Rockets handle adversity on the road against the Jazz?

Featured Image by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (James Harden) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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