Game Day Countdown examines our Houston Rockets as they continue on their five game road trip and stop in Oracle for the first meeting between the two teams this season
In this generation of NBA’s friendliness the term “rivalry” is rarely used anymore. I mean the good ol’ days of the Houston Rockets against the Jazz, with the nefarious Stockton leading their charge, type of rivalry. It’s seems to be a thing of the past once the players started to combine forces and make super teams. But, what can be perceived as a general dislike between certain players, has brought about a renaissance of sorts for these type of matches. Case in point, our playoff nemesis the Golden State Warriors.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets have lost the last eight meetings against the Warriors, but this season we have three of the top 10 shooters from beyond the arc (Harden, Gordon, Ariza) on the team. In fact, the Rockets have made at least 10 triples in a record 17 straight games. Even still though, Golden State is at home and currently on a 12-game win streak. Also, the Warriors have signed a little known, former MVP, in Kevin Durant (yes, I’m hating). While, the Rockets are on the third of a five game road trip. Not really a recipe for success. As a fan, we can only hope the loss against the Jazz on Tuesday, can provide the team with a much needed spark.
Keys to win
It truly goes without saying, but the turnovers have got to get under control. The Beard only had two against the Jazz, but their shooting percentage showed fatigue. In the two victories against the Blazers and the Kings, Harden limited his miscues to five. In the loss against Toronto, our point beard had a dubious triple double with 29 points, 15 dimes, and 12 turnovers. The Warriors play at a blistering pace per game, the third fastest in the league in terms of possessions per 48 minutes, so these miscues will hurt the Rockets.
The Rockets are currently leading the Warriors in three pointers made at 249, while shooting 37.8% from 3 point distance. In comparison, the Rockets defense in defending the three has also got to improve, especially against these deadly shooters. Opposing teams are averaging 38.2%, (second highest in the league) and averaging 9.9 made triples (seventh highest). In what seems to be occurring more frequently, Houston is just trying to outscore opponents. Luckily, they have been able to make crucial stops late in games. This type of behavior may get the Rockets victories against lower ranked teams. However, against the elite, it has not been pretty.
The reason for the higher shooting percentage from last season is due to the more uptempo offense. The execution of the pick and roll with Capela has been a thing of beauty and definitely helps in getting open looks. The Rockets can not stray from this formula against Golden State.
Both teams have made adjustments to their line ups and the improvements are very much evident. The Rockets added shooters to surround Harden and are now firing from the three with more accuracy, in comparison to last season. Along with the additions of Gordon and Anderson, the bench is now deep and is not a liability. Triple Dekker, Trez Harrell, and Nene have all carved out a role and seem to grow more comfortable with each game. It’s the growth in Capela and Dekker especially, that have been game changing.
In order to stay competitive in the western conference, it seems as though every off-season, internet breaking moves have to be made. Durant to the Warriors is was one of those moves. Apparently not content in breaking Jordan’s twenty year regular season record, Golden State added a former MVP. In doing so, they have welcomed the heel or villain persona and relish in it. Having Draymond Green on your team also helps with this. Currently sitting at 16-2, it’s an understatement to say this is a good team. Durant is averaging 27.1 points, 8.4 boards, 4.7 dimes, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. These guys steam rolled the competition last regular season and this roster is built to do the same and more.
Can the underdog Rockets expose this super team or will this be just another game in the Warriors win streak?
Nene takes back to back games off, but his day off will be today actually. This is probably in response to the “small ball” the Warriors like to play.
Tip off will be at 9:30 CT on TNT and Root Sports.