Future NBA Hall of Famer opens up old Houston Rockets wounds

When James Harden led the Houston Rockets, they almost won an NBA title.
When James Harden led the Houston Rockets, they almost won an NBA title. / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

Number vs the eye test. It's become the most hotly contested debate on the NBA internet. Is the game best understood by numbers, or do you need to watch the games to understand?

Sensible people will agree that both matter. You need to watch the game to understand the game. Still, zealots on both sides will debate this issue until the end of time.

In some ways, it all started with the Houston Rockets.

A few years ago, the Rockets were the vanguard of the analytics movement. Between the triumvirate of James Harden, Mike D'Antoni and Daryl Morey, the Rockets had a cohesive philosophy. That philosophy meant shooting a lot of threes.

Was it the right philosophy?

Houston Rockets were a powerhouse

Well, let's go back to 2017-18. The Rockets won 65 games - largely by shooting the most threes in the league (by far). That sounds pretty successful to us.

The Rockets were serious title contenders. In the end, they fell short of a title run. The Rockets infamously missed 27 threes in a row in a deciding Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

That is a staggering number of misses in a row. The Rockets opted to stick with the game plan that got them into the Conference Finals in the first place.

According to LeBron James, that was a foolish mistake.

Future Hall of Famer bashes Houston Rockets' approach

"27 straight threes? And they kept shooting them? It’s not like all of them was only 3-point shooters. It’s not like they had five Craig Hodges on their team, or five Steve Kerr’s on the floor. Where that’s all they can do, is shoot threes. Eric Gordon can get into the paint. James Harden can get into the paint."

LeBron James

If you watched this game, you're having flashbacks. If you're a Rockets fan, reading this article may give you nightmares. You may wake up in a cold sweat screaming "Space City Scoop!".

It's an interesting debate. Should the Rockets have deviated from a game plan that had worked all year just because it wasn't working in the middle of one game?

There are also some sour grapes to pick here. The officiating in this game was controversial. The Rockets made some threes that were waived off. It's not hard to make the case that they were fouled on several of the threes they missed - without receiving the call.

Yet, that's not the best explanation for how this happened. That would be the absence of Chris Paul. This was how the Rockets played. When it wasn't working, they pivoted towards letting Paul run the offense.

Without Paul, they had nowhere to pivot. Sure, James has a point - the Rockets could have tried to get Gordon going on drives. Harden could have varied his approach. Still, D'Antoni's decision to stick to his guns remains defensible.

At least, that's our opinion. LeBron James feels differently:

Between us and him, you should probably trust his eye.