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NBA Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Are Ready for the Playoffs

Houston Rockets

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets are no joke in the Western Conference.

With a win tonight over the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 104-98, the Rockets proved they cannot be taken lightly when the NBA playoffs roll around.

Houston’s front court is already massive and dominating with Dwight Howard down low (20 points to go along with 17 rebounds in the win), but Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons have really given the Rockets something extra that the team did not have last season.

Make no mistake: without Howard the Rockets cannot be considered serious contenders out in the Western Conference, but Jones and Parsons bring with them the versatility that Howard cannot offer in the post.

Jones has been an absolute athletic monster at the power forward position. Against the Spurs, Jones was able to showcase his unique set of skills as he went for 20 points and 11 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. Jones has great explosiveness that allows him to go up and bring down rebounds on both ends of the floor. When Jones gets a defensive rebound, he has the ball handling skills and awareness to bring the ball up the court on the fast break, pass the ball to an open teammate and then run down the rest of the court and get into the lane to catch the ball and finish on an easy lay-up or an alley-oop dunk. When Jones is not looking to utilize his athleticism around the rim, he is capable of stepping out and hitting a face-up jump shot from 10 to 15 feet outside the basket, making him a utility weapon on offense.

Parsons’ skills can be overwhelming for defenses at times simply because of the weapons he has around him.

Howard and Jones can both create problems in the post, but Parsons has the size to not only be effective in creating a mismatch down low when dealing with a smaller defender, but he has the range to extend his shot all the way out to the three point line just giving the defense another perimeter sniper to deal with. Parsons may have only shot 2-of-7 from deep against the Spurs, but he was also able to be effective off the dribble drive either creating opportunities for himself inside the arc or at the free throw line. He got good looks for his teammates as evidenced in his four assists with no accompanying turnovers. Parsons possesses great court vision for a small forward, and also has great awareness in terms of moving without the ball in order to set himself up for an open jump shot.

But you cannot talk about the Rockets without mentioning their main perimeter starters.

James Harden and Patrick Beverly are a great tandem in the back court. Harden is a go-to scorer in every sense of the phrase, and he proved it time and time again against the Spurs, utilizing his ability to be a play-maker and get into the lane in order to draw contact and get to the free throw line where he is effective nonetheless (8 of 8 from the charity stripe against San Antonio). Harden has the range to shoot the three, the pull up game to hit on a mid range shot, or the quickness and deceptiveness to get into the lane and finish around the rim or draw contact. Harden has had problems in the past of maintaining great control over the ball, but his turnover problems are usually masked by his scoring. When Harden is not the best perimeter defender on the court, his teammate Beverly is.

Beverly averages 1.41 steals per game and gets the occasional blocked shot. He is that guard who will play nasty in-your-face defense from the start of the game all the way until the end. Beverly has the potential every night to disrupt the opposing team’s point guard, be it Brandon Knight or Chris Paul.

With a solid starting five, and a contributing bench made up of quality role players such as Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Donatas Montiejunas, the Rockets are not going to the playoffs to just get knocked out of the first round.

The Rockets conquered in their win, and they are here to compete.

This team is here to stay.

Nathan Grubel is a Memphis Grizzlies writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @The_Only_Grubes, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.