SCS Film Room: Houston Rockets loss to Hawks pinpoints defensive shortcomings

Houston Rockets got mauled by former player Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks. SCS Film Room breaks down the squads lapses on defense.

The Houston Rockets were embarrassingly exposed by the Hawks in their 6th game of the season. First billed as an evenly matched affair the Rockets just couldn’t find a way through the Hawks size and defense.


1 2 3 4 T
Hawks 30 35 28 19 112
Rockets 30 29 25 13 97

In reality the Texan team was outplayed by Atlanta at almost every turn.

To wit, the Hawks shot better, stole the ball twice as much (8 to 16) and absolutely murdered the Rockets in the paint (62 points to 46).

Furthermore, Atlanta were superior on the boards (44 to 43), assists (29 to 22), and fast break points: 15 to 9. That’s not all as unbelievably the Rockets managed to turn the ball over an absurd 25 times! 

Finally, the only stat line Houston beat Atlanta was free-throw percentage.

The Hawks massacre was highlighted by particularly good performances from almost every starter. All five of them registered double-digits scoring and incredibly three players who produced double-doubles.

Conversely, for the Houston Rockets the only solid performances came from the team’s star player James Harden as well as K.J. McDaniels coming off the bench.

And despite Clint Capela’s double-double the Swiss roll just couldn’t keep up with Dwight Howard and committed 5 turnovers to go with 5 fouls. This resulted in the big man playing for only 21 minutes.

This edition of SCS Film Room offers 3 lessons pointing out the Rockets biggest miscues.

Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) reaches for a loose ball past forward Paul Millsap (4) and Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) and forward Ryan Anderson (3) in the first half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 112-97. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Unnecessary Turnovers

25 turnovers. I had to go way back in order to find a game the Rockets took care of the ball as poorly as this one against the Hawks. To be precise the last time Houston had as many turnovers as last night was against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2003-2004 season! 

On that occasion the Rockets committed 28 turnovers, but curiously won the game.

And even if you can vouch for Atlanta Hawks defense and reflexes there’s no reason for H-Town to be so sloppy.

For example take a look at some terrible passes made by the Rockets.

You may notice on the gif above most turnovers come after the player making the pass jumps in the air and doesn’t know what to do with the basketball. The outcome is always the same: turnovers.

Nevertheless the Texan team struggled with more than just bad passes. As a bonus, take a look below at some downright terrible plays that resulted in turnovers. Bad dribbling, traveling, horrible ball control are all part of the problem. Virtually a smorgasbord of everything  players are taught not to do.

Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) drives on Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 112-97. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Second Chance Opportunities

While turnovers played a huge part in the Houston Rockets defeat, the team’s defense just couldn’t stop the Hawks. Above all the team seemingly lacked size to compete with Atlanta in the paint, had problems boxing out and crashing the boards. The question is – are these logistical issues or effort based?)

Additionally H-town suffered, as the Hawks generated and converted plenty of second-chance opportunities.

On the gif above the Rockets play some good defense for about 23 seconds thus forcing the long range shot by Paul Millsap. However Muscala grabs the offensive board while Harden is on the other side of the court. This as Ryan Anderson trips and falls on the ground (for absolutely no reason) leading to Kent Bazemore knocking down a wide open three-point shot.

make action GIFs like this at MakeaGif

Likewise I offer the above play which starts with an offensive board. This time what is worrisome is how easily Dwight Howard gets rid of Clint Capela and scores the put back layup.

Whether this was just a veteran move by Howard or bad positioning by Capela the Rockets just can’t give away points like that. As you watch the gif ask yourself, where is the help defense?

Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney (5) shoots a layup against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Interior Defense (Or Lack Thereof)

Lastly, yet another sample of the Houston Rockets terrible defense. I find this segment particularly concerning.

The team just couldn’t defend the opponent’s drives to the basket or any inside play for that matter.

To illustrate that take a look at our final gif:

James Harden’s disdain on Thabo Sefolosha’s drive in one of the plays above especially annoys me. But then on Dennis Schroder’s drive and layup, Harden also fails to challenge him or reach in to try for the steal. Too often the team is either backing up on the plays or standing around watching.

It’s also worth noting that Ryan Anderson is present on every single one of these plays. On Millsap’s play he clears the lane for his layup leaving Nene to his own luck. And on the aforementioned Schroder drive, Anderson’s block attempt is borderline ridiculous.

If the Rockets are serious about making a run to the playoffs they absolutely cannot bank everything on their offense. While the team is proving to be effective offensively there isn’t a moment when Red Nation feels safe with the Rockets’ defense. Moreover the lack of effort or team defense is clearly missing.

Thus going forward Houston should seriously consider prioritizing the team’s interior defense and rim protection.  Besides that fans can only pray that Harden doesn’t revert back to his sloppy and lazy ways on defense.

It’s inherent D’Antoni and Bzdelik go back to fundamentals and the teams’ defensive principles. Ultimately,  this loss to the Hawks was a result of poor choices and a complete lack of the team functioning on the defensive end as a unit. The hope is lessons learned in the Rockets film room will nip these bad habits in the bud.

No one said the Houston Rockets were going to be a top defensive unit. That said, the one thing the players must do is trust each other to do the simple things.

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