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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors Summer League game preview

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve never really paid attention to how Summer League works.

I understand Summer League itself: you get to watch your newly-selected draft picks (and maybe some second year players) get some run in an organized setting, while guys fighting for a spot on a roster (NBA, G-League, abroad) try to stand out in limited minutes. That part I get.

It’s the whole “it’s a tournament and we care who wins” part that I don’t comprehend. And I didn’t understand who made the championship game. But here’s how it shakes out: everyone plays four games and the top two teams are placed in the championship game. Everyone else gets a fifth game, but the top two teams play for a title.

As I type this (early Wednesday afternoon), the Rockets are one of five undefeated teams. Cleveland, LA (Lakers), Utah, and Indiana are the others. So a Houston win tonight could set them up for a championship shot, and a loss almost certainly eliminates them from contention. Unfortunately, the first tiebreaker among undefeated teams would be point-differential. Houston is currently last in that category with a +8.7.

So as fans, here’s how we treat tonight’s game: if the Houston Rockets win and advance to the championship game, then the Summer League is SUPER important and is an uncanny prognosticator of future success. If the Rockets lose and/or do no advance to the title game, then Summer League is a waste of time and has never been about winning. Got it?

Tip-off is at 6pm CT on ESPN