Why back-to-backs are slowing down the Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

As the Houston Rockets head into their sixth sequence of back-to-back games tonight, let’s take a look at the Rockets’ performance during such games this season. You’d be quite surprised at how the Rockets have fared.

The early returns on the 2019-20 season have shown that the Houston Rockets have really struggled on the second night of back-to-backs. The Rockets have gone 2-3 in the five games the Rockets have played on the second night of consecutive games, which has been quite concerning.

What’s been even more concerning is the fact that two of those losses came against teams such as the Detroit Pistons and the New Orleans Pelicans, who aren’t exactly world beaters. The Rockets recently struggled to pull out a victory against the Atlanta Hawks on the first night of a back-to-back despite having five days of rest prior to facing Atlanta.

What’s also been concerning regarding the Rockets’ performance in back-to-backs games has been the performance of James Harden. Although Harden averages 37 points in such games, he’s shooting 35 percent from downtown and 39 percent from the field, which are both down from his regular season averages of 38 percent from 3-point range and 45 percent from the field.

Another barometer of how The Beard has struggled in back-to-backs is his true shooting percentage, which has slipped to 53 percent in the four back-to-backs he’s played in this season, compared to the 65.9 percent in the Rockets’ other 33 games.

Part of the problem is that Harden has essentially been on his own, as he’s been without his partner-in-crime Russell Westbrook on the second night of back to backs. Prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, the Houston Rockets made it known that they were going to put Russell Westbrook on a load management plan, which we later discovered was to only play Russ in one game during a sequence of back-to-back games. This plan made sense considering the offseason knee surgery The Brodie had, not to mention the fact that the Rockets surely need to keep him fresh for the postseason.

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But the Rockets have performed worse this season in this category than in past years, as they went  8-4 in the 2018-19 season and 10-4 in the 2017-18 season. Hopefully the Rockets can get this figured out because they’ve got six more back-to-backs this season, and we all know how crucial each loss becomes as it pertains to playoff seeding in the Western Conference.