James Harden scored 28 points, Dwight Howard added 18 points and 19 boards and the Houston Rockets knocked the Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs Tuesday night.
The Rockets entered the postseason with some questions after injuries to Patrick Beverly and Donatas Motiejunas, but they’ve been lifted by some spirited play from Jason Terry, Harden’s MVP-level brilliance and a returned-to-form Dwight Howard.
It’s still unclear if Houston can be a true contender in the West, but the Rockets will benefit from the Spurs and Clippers playing each other and one of the two being knocked out. Dallas, on the other hand, sees its weird-as-hell season come to a merciful end.
The Mavs were the only team to give the juggernaut Spurs a series last year, and loaded up with Chandler Parsons this offseason. Their offense was No. 1 in the league for much of the early part of the season, ahead of stalwarts like the Clippers and Warriors.
Then, of course, Dallas shook things up by trading for Rajon Rondo, one of the worst in-season moves made by a contender in recent memory. Rondo was a poor fit from the start, and Dallas seemed snakebitten ever since the trade. Dirk Nowitzki began to show his age, and Parsons had a knee injury that essentially kept him out of the first round.
Dallas wasn’t alone in making a major move this season. A handful of West teams loaded up for a playoff run, and each haven’t found success or consistency with the moves. Memphis went on a run after the Jeff Green trade, but stumbled down the stretch. He hasn’t been a perfect fit, and now the Grizzlies have other injury issues to worry about. Portland solidified their bench with Arron Afflalo, then saw him thrust into an ill-fitting starter role after the Wes Matthews injury.
The playoffs may be shaking out to be a little bit more chalk than we hoped. But ideally that won’t stop teams from making more of these all-in moves in the seasons to follow. For now, we pour one out for Dirk and gear up for what should be an awesome second round.
Photo via Scott Halleran/Getty