1. The stifling defense
Coach Ime Udoke told us from the jump that this would be a key emphasis during his tenure at the helm. He wasn’t lying. The eye test alone shows a team determined to fly around the ball and force stops at all costs.
Every player looks bought in, especially after their momentary lapses are met with a sub and talking to on the sideline. Your eyes aren’t tricking you either. Numbers back up everything you’re beholding.
Last year, the Rockets finished with a defensive rating of 118.6. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, the Spurs finished dead last with 119.6 and landed the first overall pick in the draft shortly after.
It’s absolutely abysmal.
Fast forward to November 2023 and they are currently top 5 in defensive rating at 108.1. They are giving up 10 fewer points per 100 possessions than they were just 6 short months ago!
Along with their impressive defensive rating, they also rank 1st in transition, 2nd in points off TOs, 7th in paint scoring, and 9th in DREB%.
There are areas where I’m sure they would like to improve, like generating turnovers, cutting down on second-chance points, and rim protection, but the fact that they are performing this well without those things is a sign that this defense is getting stops with its scheme regardless of some of its shortcomings.
Throughout the win streak, we have seen the scoring and go. We’ve had some blowouts and some nail-biters. But, The Rockets' ability to get stops early, often, and in the clutch has sustained this building momentum and will carry it throughout the rest of this NBA season.