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Houston Rockets: 3 goals for the month of November

By Tevin Williams
Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets finished October with a rough 1-5 record. Here are three goals that can help Houston get out of their slump and back on the right track.

If any team needs a new month for a fresh start, it’s the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets finished the month of October just 1-5, with their only win coming against the Los Angeles Lakers, another team that hasn’t met its high expectations so far this season.

Four of Houston’s five losses have been by double digits. The Rockets never lost by more than 18 points in a game last season, but they’ve already suffered blowouts of 19 or more points three times in the first six games of the season.

Why have the Rockets played so bad this year? Well, its hard to know where to start. The offense has been inconsistent. The defense has been lackadaisical. Houston is constantly getting killed on the boards. They haven’t been healthy. The 3-pointers aren’t falling. In summary, nothing is going right for this team.

Fortunately, November is a new month and the Rockets will retake the court on Friday in Brooklyn and then they’ll play the next night in Chicago. Back-to-backs are never easy, but let’s be honest, the Nets and Bulls are much easier competition than what Houston has faced so far.

Here are three goals for the Rockets in November that can help them get back on track.

Next: No. 3

Houston Rockets Guard
Houston Rockets Guard

3. Get healthy

You have to be lucky to win a championship. Next to talent, health is the most important thing a team needs in order to win in the NBA. Unfortunately, the Rockets haven’t been very healthy so far this season. Houston had most of its main rotational players in their first two games, but then everything started to fall apart.

Chris Paul received a two-game suspension against the Lakers for fighting Rajon Rondo. James Ennis suffered a grade-2 hamstring strain in the next game against the Clippers. James Harden also suffered a grade-2 hamstring strain in the following game against the Jazz. Nene, who would provide Houston some much-needed help on the glass, hasn’t played all season. Neither has Brandon Knight. Marquese Chriss just made his season debut on Tuesday against the Blazers.

No matter who’s on the floor, the Rockets are still expected to show up and give their best effort, so we aren’t making excuses here. Although, it’s hard for the players to find a rhythm when they’re playing one game and then out the next and the rotations keep getting shuffled around.

James Harden isn’t expected to play on Friday night against the Bulls, but James Ennis is expected to suit up. The Rockets will have a lot of issues to deal with even when everyone returns, but the first priority is getting as healthy as possible.

Next: No. 2

2. Improve defensive effort

Last season, the Rockets set an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season, but they always talked about how important their defense was to the team’s success. Their defense helped them score more points, because long rebounds and steals often led to easy layups and corner 3s, the lead ingredients in Houston’s offensive recipe.

Houston’s lengthy wing defenders and a switch everything strategy helped them finish with the seventh ranked defense in the NBA. As a result, they also led the league in offensive rating for most of the season before they ultimately finished second.

This season however, has been an entirely different story. The Rockets are currently ranked just 25th in offensive and defensive rating. Houston is still racking up on steals and blocks, but they’re getting killed in the paint, especially when Capela isn’t on the floor.

The Rockets are giving up 59.3 points per game in the paint, which has allowed Houston’s opponents to have a sky-high field goal percentage and attempt 25.8 free throws per game. Some of that is due to a size disadvantage, but a lot of it is due to a lack of effort. Houston’s guards and wings aren’t playing effective perimeter defense and as a result, the Rockets are paying a big price on the scoreboard.

For all of the attention and praise the 3-point shot receives, don’t forget that the most efficient shot in basketball is still a layup. The Rockets are not only giving up too many easy points, but their poor defense is also hampering their offense.

Giving up too many opportunities in the paint usually means less long rebounds which results in less easy baskets on offense. The game also slows down a lot when the opponent is constantly at the free throw line. Part of the reason Houston’s offense is suffering is because they’re facing a half court defense nearly every time down the court. The Rockets need to dig their heels in on defense in order to help open up opportunities on offense.

Next: No. 1

1. Get Eric Gordon back in rhythm

I don’t want to pick on Eric Gordon, because other Rockets players have also struggled on offense. However, Gordon’s shot has been way off for five consecutive games.

Gordon played well against his former team in the season opener. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field in 29 minutes. Then, he lost his touch. Gordon has averaged just 12.6 points on 27.4 percent shooting from the field and 23.7 percent shooting from the 3-point line over his last five outings. Gordon’s long distance shot has seemingly vanished and he hasn’t finished well at the rim either.

Houston’s offense really loses a lot of its juice when Gordon struggles. Even with Carmelo Anthony  on the roster, Gordon is still the team’s third option. With Paul and Harden missing four combined games already this year, Gordon has spent more time as a starter than coming off the bench, so he’s been the second option for most of the season.

Next. Rockets aren’t making progress in Jimmy Butler deal

Assuming Harden does indeed sit out on Friday, the Rockets need Gordon to have a bounce back game. Gordon’s shooting really spaces the floor for Paul and Harden and his ability to drive the lane and finish makes him Houston’s third most valuable offensive asset. It’s going to be hard for the Rockets to win consistently unless Gordon returns to the player he’s been for the last three seasons.

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