This season, the Houston Rockets have flipped the switch in the third quarter of their games, as they’ve averaged 29.4 points in the third. Although this ranks 15th across the league, this is better than the Rockets have ever fared in the third, even during the James Harden era (although the 2019-20 team comes close at 29.1 points).
The Rockets have been even better over the last three games, as they’ve averaged 39.7 points in the third during that stretch, which ranks first in the league. So how exactly have the Rockets pulled this off? What’s been the cause of the scoring explosion after halftime?
Rockets coach Ime Udoka offered a simple explanation.
"Some adjustments and words of encouragement at halftime. We got a little sloppy [in the last two opening halves]. Being up 4 didn't feel great last game against Detroit and [against Brooklyn] being down 1.
You don't go in there flipping over tables but you let them know what it is. The simple things get us back in the game. Obviously we're not happy to be down 1 or up 4 and those teams might be content being up 1 or down 4."
Udoka explains Rockets' consistent turnarounds in the third period.
Rockets point guard Fred VanVleet echoed Udoka’s sentiments, while praising the coaching staff for the scoring turnaround in the third.
"It's a testament to the coaches coming in at halftime, making adjustments. Looking at film, seeing what we can do better. Then, us as players, coming in and communicating and being able to flip the switch or change something that we're doing. Just figuring things out on the fly. Give [Ime] all the credit in the world. He's been fantastic at halftime."
The Rockets trailed 50-49 at the half in their last game against the Nets and outscored Brooklyn 38-25 in the third. The Rockets’ previous game against the Pistons was similar, as the Rockets led 59-55 at the half and blew the game open in the third, outscoring Detroit 47-25 in that period alone.
It’s good that the Rockets have proven to be able to fight back after the half, as they’re never essentially out of the game at the midway point. Now, they’ll just have to come out with that same energy and effort at the onset.