The Thunder’s power trio has met their match in the Houston Rockets

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Chris Paul (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Chris Paul (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets P.J. Tucker Robert Covington (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets have just the guys to counter

The good news for the Rockets is that their best lineups are similarly explosive on offense and possess a defensive profile that fits like a glove. When the Rockets decided to go all-in on micro ball, the basketball world’s immediate skepticism centered on their inability to defend the paint.

What wasn’t focused on was how downsizing might actually upgrade a team’s perimeter defending. The results are in, and micro ball has led to positive changes for the Rockets’ perimeter defense.

Since the Rockets dropped a traditional center, they have upped their ability to force turnovers from 15.2 to 18 and have been more preventive of 3-point attempts (35.7 to 33.8). The Rockets’ decision to dominate the 3-point line and not the paint makes them a matchup nightmare for OKC’s best lineup.

The Rockets’ defense will be well suited to combat the Thunder’s explosive offensive trio, but their offense may prove to be even more of an advantage. OKC’s three-guard lineup has an offensive output that looks to be real, but their work on the defensive end has been propped up by luck more than skill.

The trio of Paul, Schroder, and Gilgeous-Alexander has been able to hold opponents to 30.9 percent 3-point shooting, which is better than the entire team’s mark of 34 percent. While that mark may be exceptional, it is hardly sustainable.

Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder are listed at 6-1, and Gilgeous-Alexander stands a towering (for this backcourt) 6-5. Contesting shots at the NBA level is as much about effort as it is about length, and the Thunder’s death lineup comes up more than a little short in that regard.

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