The Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks once again provided fans a very entertaining chapter of their basketball rivalry this Sunday afternoon (24th) when the I-45 opponents clashed at Toyota Center.
Both teams refused to play any kind of intense defense and simply decided to trade baskets with each other. But, fueled by a powered up Josh Smith, Houston Rockets eventually managed to out point Rick Carlisle squad by the fourth quarter (despite the Mavericks 50% shooting from the perimeter).
With the victory, Houston keeps in the running with Dallas, Memphis and Sacramento for the coveted and still very much open 5th seed in the Western Conference.
Here are the three things we saw from Houston Rockets win against their fierce rivals.
Josh Smith’s Value for the Rockets goes well beyond his stats
There are a lot of players in the NBA that we can immediately identify their value to their team simply by checking the stat sheet or box score as that information easily translates their importance.
Josh Smith however belongs in a totally different category. That’s why a lot of people fail to understand how it’s possible that Josh is able to work so well in this team despite failing miserably with others.
Smith’s value is often intangible. It’s hard to process.
Obviously there are certain aspects that you could point out in Smith’s game that benefits the Rockets: he is a play maker that can create open shot opportunities for his teammates, plus he is strong power forward who is perfectly able to guard the paint, crash the boards and block shots.
But chemistry is something that cannot be taught or trained. And that’s exactly what Josh Smith has put on display with the Rockets since his first game back versus the Memphis Grizzlies. He just fits so perfectly with this squad it’s almost unbelievable to teams or analysts outside Houston.
Players are better with him on the court. He pushes the pace creates fast breaks but mostly Josh Smith offers unlimited intensity, energy and it genuinely looks to have fun with his teammates.
More often than not we tend to forget J-Smoove is capable of amazing things and frankly the Rockets chances improve dramatically with him on the court.
I feel this headline is self explanatory as is.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 25, 2016
Trevor Ariza played some serious hoops Sunday as you can see from the posted tweet and highlights above.
I believe one of the most underrated stats from Houston Rockets is how well the team performs when Trevor Ariza scores 16 or more points. Last season the Rockets were 21W 5L in this circumstance; this year even as the entire team went down in production H-town are still 10W 5L in those situations.
The Rockets are also unbeaten every time Ariza scores 20 or more points since he returned (10-0).
And something that is easy to detect: When Ariza is not overworked on defense, that’s when his productivity peaks. Nevertheless, as the small forward is arguably Rockets best defender, the team usually relies on him to guard the opponents best player, thus making it extremely difficult for him to maximize production on both ends of the court.
Is the small lineup the way to go?
As the Rockets currently face the New Orleans Pelicans for the third time playing their small ball lineup in the best 4-out 1-in style I wonder: Is that the way to go forward now?
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Ariza is showcasing some of his best basketball this year playing the four, he starts hot and frequently, big power forwards are reluctant to leave the paint in order to guard him on the three-point line, that benefits his percentage greatly.
Here are some pros and cons of the small ball lineup:
- High-paced team that favors Rockets basketball: steals, Corey Brewer’s fast breaks and Trevor Ariza’s threes.
- Pick-ups, switches and rotations are much more effective on defense.
- James Harden appears to have found a niche on defense crashing the boards and guarding stronger players in the post.
- The obvious height disadvantage.
- ‘Bulkier’, stronger teams will have clear advantages in post up plays and points inside the paint.
- The small lineup favors the long shot and if the team is having a bad shooting night, it becomes ineffective.
I guess now it’s up to Bickerstaff to pick his poison and figure out what works better for his team in the coming weeks.
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