Origins of small ball
Early in the season, Houston Rockets guard James Harden was drawing double-teams on a nightly basis, which significantly hindered the Rockets’ offense. This was on display during the Rockets’ game against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, as the Dubs were double-teaming Harden before he even reached half-court.
This led to the Rockets getting embarrassed on national television by a score of 116-104. The Rockets were left scrambling for answers, and they were forced to devise an unconventional solution to this problem, which led to the birth of small-ball for the Houston Rockets.
Morey spoke about this:
“As soon as [Harden’s] double teams came, Clint’s screens became double-team escorts where he would get doubled. Or they would just switch it, and we would rarely get to a traditional pick-and-roll coverage where we’d get to a lob threat.
As that evolved, we were only getting to a lob threat like 1-in-5 or 1-in-4, it became a natural evolution to go to five-out spacing.”
Although the Rockets have prevented Harden’s double teams by surrounding him with 3-point shooters, this is obviously only successful if they make their 3-pointers. Granted, that can be said about anyone in the league, as you’d be hard-pressed to win games without making treys. This is especially the case for the Rockets, as they attempt 48.8 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
This is an area in which the Rockets have struggled this season, as they’ve been an average 3-point shooting team, which will make it easy to neutralize their small ball strategy come playoff time.
Next: Win-now mode