The Houston Rockets beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday to stay alive in the race for the West's final bid to the NBA Playoffs. The New Orleans Hornets -- a team Houston's chasing -- also won, though, setting up a huge game between the two on Wednesday.
The Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies are both currently 44-33. On paper, Houston has a better chance of catching Memphis as the Hornets have the tiebreaker edge over both; New Orleans leads each season series 2-1 with a game remaining against both teams, but has a big lead on the next tiebreaker -- division record. (All three teams represent the Southwest Division.) That makes it difficult for the Rockets to catch New Orleans.
But Memphis has been playing out of its mind, winning seven of eight (with the only loss coming against the Bulls). The Grizzlies walloped the Hornets by 12 points in New Orleans last week, and draw the Clippers and Kings this week, and close the season against those Clippers. The likelihood of Memphis losing three games -- which is what Houston would need to catch the Grizzlies -- is minuscule.
So Houston's hope rely on New Orleans catching a losing bug. If the Rockets can win out (including Wednesday's game against the Hornets), Houston needs New Orleans to go 1-3 against the Suns, Grizzlies, Jazz and Mavericks. The Suns and Jazz are out of playoff contention and have been limping to the finish line, so Houston needs a bit of divine intervention.
If New Orleans beats Houston on Wednesday, the Hornets are in and the Rockets are left praying the Grizzlies lose four of their final five games.