How the Rockets’ defense has been surprisingly clutch all year

Kristaps Porzingis Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Kristaps Porzingis Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Giannis Antetokounmpo P.J. Tucker (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Outlining the Rockets’ clutch defense

The Houston Rockets’ defense has been night-and-day through the first two games in Orlando. In the first half against the Mavericks, the Rockets put up one of their worst defensive performances of the year, giving up 85 points. The Rockets were able to tighten up defensively in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, where they held the Mavericks to only 20 points.

In the clutch, which is defined as the last three minutes of the fourth quarter, they were even better, as the Rockets had a stellar defensive rating of 76.9 against the Mavericks. This, along with three steals, propelled the Rockets to a 153-149 win in their bubble opener.

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In the Rockets’ win over the Bucks, it was stellar defense down the stretch, again, that helped the Rockets close the game out with a win. In the last three minutes of that game, the Rockets had a 50.0 defensive rating, along with three steals. Harden had multiple key stops, including this defensive gem.

James Harden anticipated which way Giannis Antetokounmpo was going to drive and forced him into a late turnover, by shutting off the lane, which helped seal the victory for the Rockets. Harden’s defense was excellent throughout the entire game, but especially late in the fourth.

But it hasn’t just been James Harden, the entire Rockets team has clamped down on defense in the waning minutes of both wins. The Rockets have been clutch all year, ranking number three in defensive rating in clutch time situations.

Next: How the Rockets have taken advantage of the bubble