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Houston Rockets Game Day: NBA Best Defenses Square Off

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Game Day:

Following arguably their most complete win of the season versus a rested and desperate  Thunder team the Rockets will look to extend their 4-game home winning streak. Conversely the NBA best Golden State Warriors arrive looking to atone for an embarrassing loss to the Thunder last night and to correct their recent road woes.

Story Lines:

  • Golden State have lost 4 of their past 5 road games. Last night’s loss to OKC marked the most points they’ve allowed an opponent all season.
  • Warriors and Rockets are top two defensive teams in NBA
  • Dwight Howard did not play in either game versus GSW. Andrew Bogut was rested last night in preparation of tonight’s battle
  • In past 3-games Rockets have been on fire from behind the arc shooting 40.2%
  • Each team offers a top MVP candidate in Stephen Curry and James Harden

Team Rank:

Houston: 4th in West, 2nd in Southwest Division

Golden State: 1st in West, 1st in Pacific Division, Rank first in NBA with a 83.8% winning percent

Offense: Houston: 15th NOTE: Rockets have jumped 3 spots this week (103.4 points per 100 possessions) – Golden State: 4th (109.4 points per 100 possessions)

Defense:  Houston: 2nd (allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions) – Golden State: 1st (allowing 97.3 points per 100 possessions)

Net: Houston: 7th with a positive point differential of +4.9 – Golden State: 1st with a positive point differential of +12.1

Pace: Houston: 7th with a pace of 97.99 possessions over 48 minutes – Golden State: 1st with a pace of 100.58 possessions over 48 minutes

Points Per Game: Houston: 9th  –  Golden State: 1st

Rebounds Per Game: Houston: 11th – Golden State: 8th

Assists Per Game:  Houston: 19th – Golden State: 1st

Opposition Points Per game: Houston: 6th –  Golden State: 12th

Stats via nba.com

Notable Stats:

  • Of the Warriors 6 losses 5 have come on the road
  • While Houston rank first in 3-point makes per game, Golden State ranks closely behind them in third and actually shoot it at a better percent
  • Houston rank third in defense of the three while Golden stat rank sixth in defending opponents from behind the arc
  • Rockets have won 4 straight at home
  • Rockets have lost twice to Golden State this season so have ample ammunition as motivation. In those losses the Rockets shot just 38% from the field and just 25% from three. Howard missed both games, so establishing him inside should allow for the Rockets to open the court up and subsequently give additional open perimeter opportunities if the Warriors are forced to defend Howard.
  • In the November 8th loss to Golden State, Harden shot 8-24 from the field and 1 of 11 from three with 5 turnovers for 22 points
  • In the December 10th loss to Golden State, Harden improved from the previous outing shooting 14 of 27 from the field and 3 of 8 from three with 5 turnovers for 34 points

stats nba.com

More from Space City Scoop

Bench:

  • On the season Houston ranks at the bottom of bench stats scoring 25.5 points (27th) with a negative -10.5  efficiency (29th) while GSW rank 9th in efficiency with a positive +3.4  and 14th in scoring with 33.8 points.
  • Recently these stats have changed with the addition of Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Alexey Shved resulting in Houston climbing to 16th in scoring 32.1 points in their past ten games
  • As noted “the others” will be the main factor in tonight’s game. If the Rockets want to win they’ll need to have a solid defensive effort from their bench

stats: hoopsstats.com

Key Match-up:

The obvious match-up are the two MVP candidates James Harden vs. Stephen Curry as well as Dwight Howard vs. Andrew Bogut.

The truth is as much as the above four players will factor in the outcome I personally feel the game will come down to “the others” i.e. Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith vs. Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Marresse Speights

The best move new coach Steve Kerr made when becoming the Warriors coach in my opinion was the way he has the team moving the ball offensively and moving Iguodala to the bench. Last season Harrison Barnes withered in his bench role, so moving Iggy to the bench to captain the reserves it has resulted in an upgrade defensively while also allowing for better ball movement. Speights and Green have been the stand outs though in terms of how many games they’ve factored in Warrior wins.

Consider having to game plan for Curry, Thompson and Bogut only to recognize you’ve also got a virtual triple-double man in Green to contend with as well as Speights who brings energy off the bench and provides intangibles. Green for me deserves recognition as most improved given all the intangibles he offers. If I were a GM I’d have him earmarked as someone I’d want on my team that’s how much I love his game.

In my opinion whichever 3 x factors have the better game will be the key to which team takes the victory. If Brewer can counter Iguodala, Ariza can slow Green and Smith remains focused to offset Speights the Rockets can prevail.

Walking Wounded:

Golden State:

  • Festus Ezeli is listed at out until late January with an ankle injury

Houston:

  • Terrence Jones remains out with nerve damage to his foot

December 21, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks (20) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors small forward Draymond Green (23) and power forward Marreese Speights (5) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Keys To Winning:

  • Rockets should look to replicate their first quarter effort from Thursday. However after a poor defensive showing and Bogut back in the line-up odds are Houston will face greater resistance. The key will be not to let the Warriors get out to a big lead, so regardless of whether the ball is falling early they need to be focused on the defensive end.
  • While the emphasis will be on limiting the Warriors back court Houston will need to prioritize their defensive focus because Golden State present one of the most complete offensive challenges. They hit the three, have several players who can drive/create their own shot and they have capable paint scorers. Priority order should be to defend the perimeter, block passing lanes (especially Curry) and defense of the paint in that order
  • Houston has an advantage in the front court of Howard, Motiejunas, Ariza and Smith versus Bogut, Lee and Green, so they need to take advantage early of this match-up in order to open up the floor.
  • There are a number of players who can light it up from behind the arc and while the Curry vs Harden and Howard vs Bogut match-up are equally appealing the x factor may come down to Ariza vs. Barnes or Green

The Pick:

Home teams generally receive a 1.5 point advantage so the fact the odds makers are favoring Houston by 2 points in essence they are calling this a draw. At first glance you could suspect this game would produce a huge offensive night given the 3-point shooting offered by both teams but the fact these two teams rank one/two in the Association has me thinking they’ll both be intent on proving who is better.

With Houston holding an advantage upfront and Golden State holding an advantage in the back court I tend to think the focus will be on limiting one or the other. It’s a matter of picking your poison. Likely the teams will concede the paint making the perimeter a priority. The game should be closely contested, but the scary part becomes a Golden State team who come in angry after their bad loss. Unless the Rockets stay focused throughout it won’t bode well for them.

Harden hasn’t been at his best facing Golden State which isn’t a knock given the Warriors have manhandled most of the league’s best. While the odds makers are counting on Houston to win given their current home win streak I think the loss and embarrassment last night will be too much motivation for the Warriors who’ll end up going on a run at some point to pull away. Prediction: Warriors by 12

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