By the numbers: Why Rockets can expect P.J. Tucker to thrive in playoffs

Houston Rockets P.J. Tucker (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets P.J. Tucker (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

As competitive intensity picks up for the Houston Rockets in the postseason, P.J. Tucker has shown it brings out the best of him in the past.

There’s nothing quite like playoff basketball. With the regular season wrapping up, the best of the best remain on the Orlando campus, including the Houston Rockets, who officially enter as the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

Space City will have their work cut out for them right off the bat as they face the Oklahoma City Thunder in round one. The circumstances surrounding the series are as dramatic as they can get, as the showdown pits the Rockets against the point guard that nearly led them to the NBA Finals recently, Chris Paul.

Unfortunately, the man on the other side of the All-Star for All-Star deal, Russell Westbrook, will be sidelined for at least the start of the series that tips off on Tuesday.

Related Story. Injury assessment: How much time will Russ miss?

In the absence of the former MVP, multiple guys will need to step up to keep pace with Paul, Dennis Schroder, and up-and-coming guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. While the duty of slowing down the Thunder will be a team effort, the Rockets will need to continue their offensive excellence to give them the edge in the series.

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One X-Factor for the series could be 34-year-old P.J. Tucker, who has established himself as the heart of Houston’s defense and their utility man.

While his defense can always be expected to be top tier, the numbers suggest he could have a surprisingly good offensive postseason.

Spending much of his early career with the Phoenix Suns, P.J. Tucker didn’t get to see any playoff action until his sixth season in the NBA as a member of the Toronto Raptors.

Since he joined the Houston Rockets in 2017-18, who now own the league’s longest playoff streak, Tucker has become used to playing in the postseason.

Fortunately for the Rockets, Tucker has shown a tendency to improve on his already-consistent game when the playoffs roll around. In his first playoff run with Houston, P.J. improved his points per game from 6.1 in the regular season to 8.9 in the Rockets’ bid for the Finals.

Tucker’s rebounding also raised from 5.6 to 6.9 while his shooting percentage skyrocketed. Tucker’s overall accuracy went up 9.1 percent from 39 to 48.1 in the postseason. His 3-point shooting, in turn, also increased from 37.1 percent to 46.7.

When you look at his combined career averages between the regulars season and playoffs, the trend is similar, with the most noticeable jumps being in his shooting percentage.

Regular season avg | 7.3 PPG | 5.8 REB | 1.4 AST | 42.1% FG  | 36.1 3P% |
Playoffs career avg  |8.6 PPG | 6.6 REB | 1.4 AST  | 46.9 % FG | 43.8 3P% |

The Rockets will need guys to shoot well from the field to make up for their lack of size, so Tucker’s usual improvements in the playoffs will be sorely needed.

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If history is any indication, he’ll be ready to provide an offensive spark on a team that needs their offense to be at its peak every single night.