Houston Rockets Finding Success in the Land Beyond the Arc
The Houston Rockets continue to go back to the well that has provided them with support all year long. The team has just won their 40th game of the year and sit only a single game behind the Memphis Grizzlies. No Dwight Howard, No problem.
In recent action, the Rockets hoisted up a ridiculous 44 shot attempts from downtown in a game against the Clippers. But hey, when they are falling who’s counting right?
McHale’s team hit 17 of those 44 attempts ultimately leaving the Clippers unable to close the gap giving Houston another exciting victory.
It’s a risky game plan for anyone, but the Rockets continue to shoot from 24 feet and out with supreme confidence. A strong defensive effort accompanied by heavy duty fire power from downtown, is helping the Rockets find a great deal of success without their starting center.
The attacks are spearheaded by front runner MVP candidate James Harden. Harden isn’t doing it alone, he is getting a ton of help from his teammates. Even without Superman, Houston continues to attack the rim and work in the paint. Let’s take a deeper look at the Rockets 3 point shooting, which has given the team a great deal of success on the offensive end.
The Land Beyond the Arc
In terms of 3 point percentage the Rockets are very middle of the pack. The attempts and makes are where they lead the league. Portland is attempting 27.8 shots from beyond the arc, virtually six less than the Rockets who are putting up a league high 33.8 long balls per contest. James Harden and Company are converting on a league high 11.7 makes from 3 point land. One of the mind boggling things about this statistic is that the team who leads the league in 3’s made, are dead last in terms of 3 point makes that are assisted by teammates.
In 1997 the NBA had been using 22 feet as the marker for the 3 point line, but elected to lengthen the 3 point line back to it’s original distance of 23.75 feet (23 feet, 9 inches, or 285 inches). The baselines on the other hand sits at 22 feet (264 inches). This is where Houston does a bulk of it’s damage. In fact 44% of overall shots taken by the Rockets offense are 3 point attempts. Let’s look at where they are most comfortable shooting the basketball and at what percentage they are falling:
- 3 point attempts: 33.8 (1st)
- 3 point makes: 11.7 (1st)
- 3 point percentage: 34.7% (15th)
Those Responsible for Making it Rain
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When looking at three point baskets made, McHale’s band of brothers has three players inside the leagues top 20. Harden is leading the team in both efficiency and 3 point baskets made. The beard accounts for 2.7 long bombs per game each time he’s on the court. Ariza isn’t too far behind Harden, adding to the party with 2.4 makes per night from downtown.
The real depth comes from Houston’s stretch 4’s. Josh Smith, Terrance Ross, Kostas Papanikolaou, and Donatas Motiejunas are contributing close to or over one make per game. When you have several players that can get out in transition or take the jump shot, it really opens things up for the offense. It also causes problems for opposing defenses. This is what makes Houston so deadly from downtown, an insane amount of shooting depth.
The Rockets may not be the most efficient team from 23 feet, but they have been good enough to win 40 games in the West. A big piece of why, is the 550 three point shots that have been made. This has paid huge dividends in the 4th quarter when it comes time to close out games.
What Makes This Offense Tick?
The Rockets offense is currently scoring 103.3 points per game, while holding a +/- of 3.6. This has made for some exciting basketball. It is clear by the above chart, where and how the Rockets are doing their offensive damage. A huge bulk of their scoring is done at the rim and the other main area of strength is coming from outside the perimeter. The least amount of attempts come from the area not in the paint and inside the 3 point line. The chart below indicates the frequency at which the team is shooting from these designated areas, 2’s/3’s/paint:
It would be in the best interest of all opposing defenses to force the Rockets into taking contested two’s. Opposing defenses shouldn’t have a hard time figuring out the Rockets game plan as it never really changes. Ultimately it is shaped around the skill sets of Harden and Howard. Despite the predictability, Houston executes very well. The transition game helps the team set up camp on the 3 point line. The fast break is another area where they are strong scoring 18 fast break points per game (3rd).
One thing about the game of Basketball that has never changed is that good defense, always translates into good offense. This particular defense most definitely compliments the offense. Houston scores 19.2 points per game off turnovers (3rd) and some of those baskets are made from downtown. This team makes a living off dribble penetration and long balls. They have found some real success utilizing this game plan and have continued to do so in the absence of one of the leagues best big men, Dwight Howard.
James Harden and company continue to shoot the lights out most nights and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. This teams prides themselves in continuing to keep faith in there game. A game in which they have found a nucleus that works. Until opposing defenses start to force the Rockets to shoot themselves out of games, they will likely continue to live and die by the jumper. In the end, The Rockets biggest adversary will be themselves.
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