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Analyzing recent trends that the Houston Rockets should be worried about

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19: Russell Westbrook #0 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets talk during a game against the LA Clippers on December 19, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19: Russell Westbrook #0 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets talk during a game against the LA Clippers on December 19, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Although the Houston Rockets are currently fourth-best in the Western Conference, there are several things that the Rockets should be concerned with.

With the new year officially upon us, the Houston Rockets have had a pretty good season so far. The Rockets are currently 23-11 which is good for fourth-place in the Western Conference. This is quite an accomplishment, as there were many who questioned how Russell Westbrook would fit in with the Rockets’ trigger-happy 3-point system.

The Rockets have shown themselves to be a contender, which is reassuring and also encouraging. This season presents the Rockets’ best opportunity for a championship in recent memory, due to the parity in the NBA. But the Rockets have had a few things that have come up recently that are quite concerning.

James Harden‘s free throw struggles

Rockets guard James Harden is one of the best free throw shooters in the league, and he’s also the best at getting to the line. Harden has led the league in free throw attempts in each of the last six seasons (including this season), and he’s currently averaging a career-best 12.3 free throw attempts per game this season.

Although Harden is shooting 86 percent from the charity stripe this season, he’s shooting 38-of-54 from the line in the last six games, which is good for only 70 percent. What’s even worse is the fact that Harden has missed at least four free throws in each of the last two games.

Over the last six games, James Harden is shooting 70% from the free throw line. On top of that, Harden has missed at least four free throws in each of the last two games.

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) January 1, 2020

Obviously Harden is career 85.8 percent free-throw shooter and we shouldn’t expect his free throw struggles to continue, but it’s neutralizing one of Harden’s greatest strengths, which is baiting opposing players into fouls. With Harden missing his free throws, it takes away the threat of Harden getting points at the charity stripe.

Russell Westbrook’s 3-point woes

Russell Westbrook’s 3-point shooting woes have been well documented and rightfully so. Simply put, Westbrook isn’t a good 3-point shooter.

He’s a career 30.4 percent 3-point shooter, which certainly isn’t great, but Westbrook has performed even worse over the course of the Rockets’ last three games.

Russell Westbrook kept his 3-point attempts down to only 2 tonight, compared to 8 in the Christmas game against the Warriors.

However, he's gone 0-for-12 from downtown in his last 3 games

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) January 1, 2020

Russell Westbrook hasn’t made a single 3-pointer in each of the last three games and he’s attempted 12 of them. Granted, we all know he’s not known for being a sniper from downtown, but the Rockets will not be able to afford an 0-for-12 performance from The Brodie. This will continue to cause opposing defenses to double-team Harden and leave Westbrook open from 3-point range.

Obviously this is something we should expect to change, but how soon will it happen? Because as long as Westbrook is taking this shot, he’s playing into the hands of the defense. Granted, the Rockets have gone 2-1 during Westbrook’s last three games so it hasn’t hurt them, but it’s something that needs to change soon.

Next. Will Fertitta be able to dodge the luxury tax this season?

At the end of the day, the Houston Rockets should expect Harden’s free throw struggles to stop, as well as Westbrook’s 3-point struggles. But these are recent trends the Rockets should certainly be concerned with, if nothing else.

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