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The Houston Rockets have been a tale of two teams on defense this year

By Anthony Duckett
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets’ defense has been inconsistent at best and has resembled that of two entirely different teams. Here’s how the Rockets defense has fared by the numbers.

This season, the Houston Rockets have been inconsistent, especially on the defensive end. The Rockets have gone 12-6 over the course of their first 18 games, but have been two different teams in regards to their defensive effort.

The Rockets have gone on an eight-game winning streak this season and followed that up with a three-game losing streak prior to their most recent victory over the Miami Heat. During the Rockets’ eight-game winning streak, they had a defensive rating of 100.1 points per 100 possessions, which was actually the second-best in the NBA. However, during their three-game losing streak, they had a defensive rating of 115.9 per 100 possessions, which was 22nd in the NBA.

During the Rockets’ recent victory over the Heat, they had a defensive rating of 107.9 points per 100 possessions, which isn’t necessarily encouraging considering that the Heat were playing without the services of Jimmy Butler. All in all, the Rockets currently have a defensive rating of 108.6 points per 100 possessions, which is 17th in the NBA.

It was expected that the Rockets would have a drop-off in defensive productivity, as they changed coaches when they fired Jeff Bzdelik and replaced him with Elston Turner. But what’s encouraging is how much the Rockets’ defensive rating has actually improved over the course of the season.

It’s unrealistic to expect the Rockets’ defensive rating to be near the 100-point range because no team is that good this season. As currently constructed, the Rockets only have two starters who are known to be stellar on the defensive end: Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker.

But if the Rockets are going to have a shot at competing for a title, they’ll have to be more consistent on that end of the floor, as their offense can only take them so far. The Rockets have always been able to get in a shootout and simply try and outscore the opponent, but they can’t expect to win a championship with that strategy, as the playoffs will certainly be much different.

During postseason play, teams have an entire series to make adjustments and to counter what the Rockets’ offense is doing. During the 2017-18 season, the Houston Rockets had a defensive rating of 105.7, which was tied for sixth-best in the league that season.

Obviously the Rockets had a much different team at that point, including Trevor Ariza and Chris Paul, but if this year’s team can return to that level, they would improve five spots and rank 12th-best in the league this season.

Next. Top 4 things the Rockets are thankful for this season

Hopefully, the Rockets can be more consistent on the defensive end, because ultimately the old adage is true: defense wins championships.

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