The Houston Rockets finish strong and close their five game road trip with tough victories against the Warriors and the Nuggets
Are you not entertained?? The Houston Rockets provided a nail-biting, double overtime win, against one of the top teams in the league. As an encore, the team then hopped on a plane and arrived in the Mile High at 5 AM. With little to no sleep, the Rockets proceeded to beat Denver as if they owed Red Nation money. In going 4-1 on this road trip, the team has now established themselves as a threat to the Western conference.
After the loss against the Jazz, an embarrassed Rockets squad looked forward to rectifying their lackadaisical play. Against Golden State, the team hustled for rebounds, moved off the ball, fought over screens, and kicked out to open looks. These open looks, helped the two teams combine to fire away 88 attempts from three and set a new NBA record.
James Harden posted his 4th triple-double of the season, and 13th as a Houston Rocket. The Beard is now one short of passing Hakeem Olajuwon, for most in franchise history. He is currently averaging 28.7 points (4th in the NBA) and 12 assists (1st in NBA) per game. Against the Warriors, Harden scored or assisted on 61 of the Rockets 132 points.
Prior to this game, these Golden State Warriors were 16-0 when scoring over 100 points this season. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see Houston reach down and continue to fight. It is this exact shootout that last year’s team would have faltered in. Instead, it was the league’s current, “unanimous” MVP, that was actually benched on several defensive possessions. Yes, just to be clear-I’m hating.
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Overall, it was well worth staying up late to see the game in its entirety.
Unfortunately, as exhausting as the victory was, the team could not relish in their triumph.
Most of the NBA pundits assumed fatigue would be a factor for the team. Apparently, the Rockets didn’t get the memo, as Denver could do little to stop the onslaught of scoring. The Rockets surged right out of the gate and put up 73 points in the first half. Ryan Anderson started with a bang and showed no dead legs. Even with Harden’s shot being off (6/16) , the rest of the team picked up the slack and made the Nuggets seem like the lifeless team.
In looking at both games, let’s take a look at the 3 takeaways from these hard fought wins.
Next: Supporting Cast
Nov 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (3) adjusts his shorts during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
This year’s Houston Rockets have depth
Although Coach D’Antoni has his rotation set, it has been a joy watching the younger players carve out their niche and playing time. Trez, Dekker, and Capela have matured into actual NBA players and contribute on a nightly basis. As it happens, Trez filled in for Nene and helped set the tone for both games. Against Golden State, he had a double/double with 13 points, 10 boards, and 1 block. And this filthy dunk on McAdoo…
While Dekker has already earned consistent minutes in D’Antoni’s rotation, his hustle has allowed Coach to trust him more in late game situations. Against the Warriors, he scored 11 points, 8 boards, 2 dimes, and 2 steals. In the Nuggets game, Dekk contributed 17 points (1 triple), 4 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block. It’s plays like the one below that prove Coach D’Antoni was right for his belief in the kid…
In a word, the difference between this year’s team and the prior is…camaraderie.
Next: 3 point shooting
Live by the 3 and die by the 3
The Rockets, as usual, have made their living from beyond the arc. In the last five games, they have attempted 39.4 triples and currently their streak is at 19 consecutive games with 10 made. Along with the consecutive triples streak, the game against the Nuggets saw several players (Ryno, Gordon, and Ariza) hit four 3-pointers. This was the fifth game this season that such a feat has occurred. The rest of the NBA has a combined four.
In the Warriors game, Ryno hit several clutch, end of shot clock, triples to extend the game (as seen below) The new Rocket was able to drop a season high 29 points.
Eric Gordon was another contributor off the bench and one of his several highlights was him saving a broken play with a corner three…
Rockets management has built a team around Harden and they have performed as expected and are thriving in this offense. This particular team and the coach, which many “loyal” fans questioned, have made a lot of people take notice.
Now as the saying goes, the offense really is all or nothing. The question is, can this type of offense carry a team into the post season and beyond. In the past, the common perception was an emphatic no. The Warriors winning disproved that theory. Can the Rockets replicate their formula is the real question.
Mar 25, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph (6) and Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) battle for a loose ball in the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 112-109. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The hiring of defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik this off season, was meant to counteract Coach D’Antoni’s 7 seconds or less offense. Unfortunately, the Rockets rank 22nd in points allowed per game and 28th in defensive efficiency. However, there have been brief glimpses of brilliance and the last two games saw the team come away with double digit steals. Against the Warriors, the Rockets were able to play the passing lanes and had 11 steals. In the Nuggets game, they had 10 takeaways.
Capela has also made strides to improve and is currently averaging almost 2 blocks per game. Comparatively, even Harden has impressed with his defense and willingness to defend and no longer gives up on possessions. A steep contrast to last year.
The last two victories have shown that the Rockets can compete with anybody, as long as the team continues to buy in on the defensive end. The victories are a step in the right direction and working to end the misconception that the Rockets, are a one dimensional team. Mcgrady, Maxwell, and even loudmouth Stephen A. Smith have all started to come around and believe in Clutch City. Don’t believe it…just watch.
Follow Space City Scoop as the Rockets begin a three game homestead and try to continue the momentum from this successful road trip.