The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a season-breaking losing streak. Their plunge down the standings has made their chances at the postseason incredibly bleak.
However, even in defeat, there are important bits of information that can tell us a bit more about a team. What has the Houston Rockets’ six-game losing streak taught us about the team?
Christian Wood is the real deal
The easiest takeaway from the Rockets’ six-game losing streak comes from a man who hasn’t been a part of it. Christian Wood’s ankle injury looms large and his absence shows just how good he has been this season.
Before the injury, the Rockets looked like a playoff team but since then they’ve looked like a team playing for the number one overall pick in the draft. Christian Wood is the best player on the team and his absence shows that he is one of the most valuable players in the entire league.
Wood’s timetable for return is not yet known but if he doesn’t get back on the court soon the Rockets season could be toast. Hopefully, he recovers quickly because without him the Rockets’ chance of recovering in the standings looks bleak.
The Rockets need their five best
While Christian Wood’s absence has been the most obvious cause for the Rockets’ plunge down the standings, their inability to start their best five players on a consistent basis is equally as troubling.
The Rockets preferred starting five this season have been Christian Wood, P.J. Tucker, Jae’Sean Tate, Victor Oladipo, and John Wall. If Wood is excluded and replaced with DeMarcus Cousins then the Rockets have only played their preferred five twice over this losing streak.
Unsurprisingly, the two games that have featured four of the Rockets’ preferred five have been the closest of the six. The five-point loss to the Spurs and the seven-point loss to the Heat, the two best teams they have played, featured a starting lineup with Tucker, Tate, Oladipo, and Wall.
The Rockets desperately need Wood to come back, but if this four-man unit had been able to start all six of these games, then this losing streak might never have occurred. The Rockets, like most teams, need their best five every night to be competitive.
DeMarcus Cousins is washed
It’s sad to see players fade into obscurity but that’s exactly what has happened to DeMarcus Cousins. Over the course of the Rockets’ six-game losing streak, Cousins has started every game and been utterly ineffective.
Cousins has averaged 11 points a game on 42.9-percent shooting and 31-percent 3-point shooting. That simply won’t cut it in a league where the average field goal percentage is 46.3-percent and the average 3-point percentage is 36.8-percent.
After Achilles and ACL injuries it’s possible that Cousins’ body is simply too broken for him to be an effective NBA player. The Rockets hope he can turn it around but it looks increasingly likely that Cousins isn’t even an effective backup anymore.
The 3-point shooting will stabilize
The wisest NBA saying is that “it’s a make or miss league.” The team that makes more shots is the team that will win the game. The Rockets over their six-game losing streak have simply missed their shots and their opponents have made them.
The NBA has seen 3-point shooting numbers explode over the last decade and the team that wins is the team that hits more threes. Over the past six games, the Rockets have averaged 43 3-point attempts compared to their opponents’ 32.8.
Even though the Rockets are taking almost ten more threes than their opponents they’re only hitting 11.5 compared to their opponents making 13. The 3-point shooting will stabilize and the Rockets will start winning more because of it.
For the season the Rockets are shooting 34.1-percent from 3-point range. If they had shot that over this stretch they would have hit 14.6 threes a game. That would lead to an almost nine-point increase per game over their losing streak.
Bad luck is a bad excuse, except when that’s all that it is. The Rockets won’t continue to shoot 26.7-percent from three and their opponents won’t continue to shoot 39.6-percent from deep.
Pace is your friend
Before the Rockets started losing every game they were averaging 101.4 possessions per game as they went 11-10. That would be a top-10 mark in the league this season and equal with the Brooklyn Nets.
However, over their six-game losing streak, their pace has dropped to 99.6 possessions per game. The Rockets need to up the pace to get back on track.
Playing at a faster pace should lead to more easy looks and the Rockets could use a few more of those. The condensed schedule has no doubt sapped some of their ability to get out and run but they might need to have tired legs to right the ship.