2. Poor shooting from Eric Gordon/James Harden/P.J. Tucker
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: James Harden has a bad shooting night. This is something we see frequently because of his playing style of creating enough space to let off an exorbitant amount of 3-pointers.
The Rockets are generally able to withstand Harden’s bad shooting as long as he’s the only one not making those shots. This wasn’t the case last night, as Harden, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker combined to go 6-of-23 from long-range, which is not a winning formula.
It’s unusual for that to happen, especially this season. In fact, there have been 20 games this season in which Harden has made less than 30 percent of his 3-point attempts, which is a staggering number to say the least. But of those 20, we’ve only seen Eric Gordon and/or PJ Tucker fail to reach their average 3-point shooting percentages four times. That means 80 percent of the time Gordon and/or Tucker are having a normal shooting night when Harden is struggling.
That trio is pivotal to the Rockets’ chances of winning, as they average 25.3 triples per game, which is more than half of the 44.6 treys the Rockets attempt on average. It’s not common that all three of them have a hard time hitting shots in the same game, but even with that being the case, the Rockets had several opportunities to win this game.
Harden missed a layup in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and Westbrook missed a potential game-tying shot as well. If either of those shots fall, the Rockets have a chance to pull the game out in overtime.
Obviously there aren’t any moral victories but it should be encouraging how the Rockets reversed their shooting woes, especially James Harden. The Beard started the first half going 0-for-6 from deep, which played a large part in the Rockets’ 21-point deficit.
Harden shot his way out of the slump, as he went 3-for-7 from long-range in the second half, which sparked the Rockets’ comeback. If Harden simply makes one of those 3-pointers in the first half we could be having a much different conversation.
It seems unfair to ask for a better game from Harden when he had 35 points, but he didn’t start hitting his shots until the second half, which was a little too late. P.J. Tucker didn’t make any shots all game, as he finished with 0 points.
It goes without saying but that simply can’t happen. Tucker only had two field-goal attempts and one 3-point attempt, which falls on the shoulders of Harden and Westbrook to kick it out to him in the corner, where he’s usually wide open.
Since the Rockets have moved Tucker to center, there has only been one game in which he’s had zero points, which was against the New Orleans Pelicans. Although the Houston Rockets managed to win that game, it took Harden going 46.7 percent from downtown, which we can’t expect to happen on a nightly basis.
We also can’t expect the trio to all shoot poorly in the same game, and based on what we’ve seen this season that doesn’t happen often.
Next: No. 1