NBA Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Return to NBA Playoffs In Dramatic Fashion

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets secured a spot in the NBA playoffs in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night, which is the team’s first postseason appearance since the 2008-09 season.

In a rarely seen lapse of concentration, Phoenix Suns’ center Jermaine O’Neal helped hand Houston a spot in the playoffs.

Houston’s All-Star guard James Harden was given the game winning attempt and instead of taking a higher percentage shot on what was an off night from deep for the shooting guard, Harden rose for a contested pull-up three that missed, but hung around on the cylinder. O’Neal jumped and tipped the ball away from the ring and although time had already expired, he was called for a goaltending, giving the Rockets the win and a playoff berth.

Let’s not heap all the thanks on O’Neal. Utah’s loss to OKC resulted in the seventh seed belonging solely to the Rockets.

So what comes next?

The Rockets are just a game behind the Golden State Warriors and with four games remaining in regular season, Houston has a real chance at catching the Warriors and avoiding a dreaded first-round match-up against either San Antonio or OKC.

Houston will face two tough matches that will determine their final position. Memphis looms on Friday and a final game show down against the Los Angeles Lakers should also be a challenge. A couple of easier match-ups are wedged between those two– the Rockets get Sacramento at home before facing Phoenix one final time.

Golden State will have a much tougher time in keeping the sixth seed. Three of the team’s final four games come against OKC, the Lakers and San Antonio.

Robert White covers the Houston Rockets for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.