The Houston Rockets had a great opportunity to make up a game on the Memphis Grizzlies in the standings, and to pull within two games of a bid to the NBA Playoffs. Memphis had lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, slipping to 44-34. All Houston had to do to get to 42-36 and put some pressure on the Grizzlies over the final week was beat the visiting Sacramento Kings, who came in with a 22-54 record.
But the Kings managed to maintain a lead throughout, and Marcus Thornton hit some huge buckets and free throws down the stretch to essentially knock Houston out of the playoff race. Memphis now needs just two wins to clinch a playoff bid; the idle New Orleans Hornets need just one.
So (likely) ends a really improbable run for Houston, who has missed Yao Ming for all but five games this season and has relied heavily on the backcourt pairing of Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin. Houston made two midseason trades, sending veteran defender Shane Battier to Memphis for Hasheem Thabeet and a draft pick, and swapping Aaron Brooks for Goran Dragic. Both moves were made with an eye toward the future, but Houston somehow got better immediately and made this great run. It's too bad it looks like it's coming up short a week early.