For Mike D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets, being one of the best teams on offense isn’t enough. They want to be the best on defense too.
Despite finding success last year, the Houston Rockets have even loftier expectations for this season.
So far, the Rockets (21-4) have the best record in the NBA and they’ve won ball games with a high-octane offense and with a much improved defense. The Rockets rank second in offensive rating (113.4) and first in 3-pointers made per game (16.0), which is to be expected with James Harden and Chris Paul running the show. But what has been even more impressive is Houston’s defense.
The Rockets are sixth in defensive rating (102.3), third in steals (9.5) and sixth in opponents turnovers per game (15.8). And Houston has been even better over their 10-game winning streak. The Rockets have ranked first in offensive rating (118.5), third in defensive rating (100.9), first in steals (10.4) and fifth in opponents turnovers per game (16.3) in that span.
The Rockets can score with the best of them, but Mike D’Antoni knows that defense is the key to winning ball games. Via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
“For us to win, to know that’s what we have to win on, our defense. It seems weird because we average so many points, but we know if we hold teams under 100, we’re not going to lose. We have a goal and they take pride in it. I think the three guys we brought in (Chris Paul, Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker) are defensive-minded guys first. They help with the overall concentration and overall theme of the team.”
The Rockets are 9-1 in games that they’ve held their opponents to under 100 points, and all nine of those wins were double-digit victories. Houston is so good offensively that opposing teams have to score a lot of points to beat the Rockets, but those efforts still usually come up short.
Chasing Golden State
Mike D’Antoni also told Feigen that being the best on both ends of the floor gives Houston the best shot at a title.
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“We still have some work to do. We still can get better. We kept saying that we want to be in the top 10. Then we want to be in the top five. Actually, we really want to be best in both. That would give us a heck of a chance to win. That’s what Golden State does. They’ve been best in both. We want to be best in both.”
Despite having Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in and out of the lineup, Golden State ranks first in offensive rating (113.9) and fourth in defensive rating (101.2). When Golden State won the title last season, they ranked first in offensive rating (113.2) and second in defensive rating (101.1). In fact, the Warriors have ranked in the top four in offensive and defensive rating in every year since the 2014-15 season.
The Warriors have been to three consecutive Finals, and they were a possession away from winning three consecutive titles. This team has set the bar very high, and its up to someone else to reach it.
Houston’s ultimate goal is to win the NBA championship, but the path to the NBA Finals will surely go through Oracle Arena. The Houston Rockets have a good understanding of the type of basketball that is required to defeat a juggernaut like the Warriors. Can they do it? We’ll have to wait and see.