Kevin McHale on Rockets analytics: “Numbers don’t win games”

Kevin McHale (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Kevin McHale (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Kawhi not the best comparison

As it pertains to the mid-range, Kawhi is an interesting comparison, because he attempted 4.9 mid-range shots per game during the 2019 playoffs, compared to six triples per game. So in essence, he attempted more triples than the mid-range shots, which sort of debunks McHale’s comparison.

Granted, Kawhi shot 33.3 percent during the Eastern Conference semifinals and 34.4 percent from distance during the Eastern Conference finals, so he didn’t exactly light it up from long-range throughout the entire playoffs. And Kawhi did shoot 49.2 percent from mid-range during the 2019 postseason, but he actually fared much better on the corner 3-point shot, as he made 55.6 percent from the left corner and 50 percent from the right corner.

His six triples per contest during the postseason represented a career high for Leonard in both the playoffs and the regular season. Kawhi shot even more triples during the NBA Finals series against the Warriors, as he shot seven triples per game, and made 35.7 percent of them, which was actually better than Stephen Curry, by comparison. Considering how much Kawhi depended on the 3-point shot, he’s not exactly the best example of how 3-pointers aren’t necessary to win a title.

When McHale mentioned late game execution, it’s possible he’s referring to the series-ending shot Kawhi nailed against the Philadelphia 76ers, which was the epitome of a shot the Rockets wouldn’t want, by design. Kawhi was just a step inside the 3-point line, which is something that would be frowned upon under Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni. Morey actually had interesting comments about the shot, stating that it was a 10 percent shot and that it was essentially a miss.

The biggest frustration with the Rockets’ style of play is that it’s only effective if the Rockets are making a large percentage of their attempts from long-range, which hasn’t necessarily been the case this season. For this reason, many fans have been calling for the Houston Rockets to sprinkle in some of the mid-range shots that James Harden used to be lethal at shooting.

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McHale is essentially saying the Rockets need to do just that, and forget about the high percentage shots and/or most efficient shots. Although Kawhi wasn’t exactly the best comparison, there’s one thing McHale is certainly right about: the only number that matters is the score at the end of the game.