Atlanta Hawks @ Houston Rockets on 11/27/2013

The third seed in the Eastern Conference is coming to Houston to take on the fifth seed Rockets, an appointment that sounds daunting for a Western Conference team on the rise, trying to prove itself as a real playoff threat. Or, it would sound daunting if the Rockets weren’t a game and a half ahead of the Hawks. Instead, the Rockets have a chance to impose a little bit more of Western Conference will on a struggling Eastern Conference, and more importantly, a chance to continue developing some nascent team chemistry.

After a groggy start to the season, including a “twin towers” period best left undiscussed, the Rockets have begun to look a little closer to mid-season form. The bench has started to show up and the shooting has begun to even out. They just won two in a row in opposite manners, from a high-percentage shootout with the Minnesota Timberwolves on to a come-from-behind defensive slugfest with the Memphis Grizzlies. Losing James Harden to a sore foot for a pair of games has actually paid dividends for Houston, a team badly in need of something to rally around.

Whether Harden suits up for tomorrow’s game is still to be decided. Houston clearly has a better shot with James Harden on the floor, but his absence has shows the team to be deeper and more resilient than expected. Jeremy Lin, Ömer Aşık, Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks make up a second string lineup that would be an upgrade to many teams’ starting lineups. The difficulty has been finding minutes for all the players and finding combinations that make sense.

Well, with a pair of home games against Eastern Conference opponents, Thanksgiving week is as good a time as any to be creative with the rotations. As opposed to his first two years on the job, head coach Kevin McHale seems much more willing to open the bench up and let the young guns fire this season. Donatas Motiejunas, a player who looked to be off the bench entirely, has still been the benefactor of quality minutes. Only four players have yet to see real floor time: Greg Smith due to injury (knee), Ronnie Brewer due to injury (calf), and rookies Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington are spending time with Houston’s NBA D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

What does this mean for the game against the Hawks? Whether Harden plays or not, expect McHale to be happy to throw out different lineups until one works. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are top quality big men with a solid reserve behind them in Elton Brand. The rest of the Hawks’ roster is murkier, with sharpshooter Kyle Korver and journeyman (and onetime Rocket) DeMarre Carroll at the wings and speedster Jeff Teague running the point. The Hawks are a more solid team than their Joe Johnson/Josh Smith incarnations of yesteryear, but are still only two games above .500 in a mindbogglingly weak conference. It’s unclear how good they actually are, but they’re definitely good enough to be taken seriously by a Rockets team still establishing itself.

Can Dwight Howard impede the hot-shooting Horford and Millsap? Can Chandler Parsons outshoot and outplay Kyle Korver, a man who looks like Ashton Kucher? Who’s faster and more willing to sacrifice his body, Jeremy Lin or Jeff Teague? Which young, little known forward will look more energetic, DeMarre Carroll or Terrence Jones? Last but not least, will James Harden’s foot issues be resolved? We’ll find out the answers tomorrow at 7:00 pm central time at the Toyota Center.

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Total comments: 25
  • Thyshakes says 9 months ago

    Love this team. Almost everyone on the team had a big game. That's a sign of a good team. Keep it up, Rockets.

  • Chai says 9 months ago

    I'll do my best to dumb down how RAPM is derived. It follows 3 steps:

    1) plus-minus, which is essentially the point differential between two teams for the amount of time a player is on the court

    2) Adjusted plus-minus: This is derived from a linear regression of

    Score differential = (team a parameters) - (team b parameters)

    Each individual team parameters would factor in individual player's plus minus and other factors such as home court advantage, etc

    There's 2 general problems with APM:

    a. Due to the massive amount of parameters, the correlation is usually not very accurate, even for a single season of data. Basically, you would need a large set of data (preferably over a few seasons), to accurately predict the data.

    b. Co-linearity. This is essentially when 2 players spend so much time together on the court that it's hard to split them apart. Think Derek Fisher & Kobe Bryant, Duncan & Parker, etc. This is where RAPM comes in

    3) RAPM uses ridge regression (i won't get into this) to attempt to isolate each player's influence to come up with 1 final number that attempts to predict a player's offensive and defensive influence on the point differential.

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    I need to research more about how RAPM works. That is good info to know that Chalmers is not getting specific RAPM credit for simply being the PG on the floor alongside the Big 3 + Ray Allen, etc. Still would like a better understand of RAPM and hockey passes as a lot of time that extra pass turns into a wide open high percentage shot.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Asik's ORAPM will be better than Howard's just because Asik doesn't slow down the ball movement, he just picks and rolls and lets the guards create for him and others.

  • Buckko says 9 months ago Can we have the pole for our bench players and not bench mob, something more creative like our anoncers were discussing. My favorite, the Afterburners.
  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    Yes, if he's making his team mates better his own RAPM gets better. If he's just on the floor with the best line up then his RAPM will drop unless he's a big reason why that line up is the best line up, and from what I've seen its surprisingly accurate. For example Mario Chalmers is top 20 in the league in +/- because he's always on the floor with the best line up, but obviously he's not a top 20 player, and his RAPM not even in the top 100 which is pretty cool. It even breaks up into offense and defense, which I call ORAPM or DRAPM, and if you compare it to other players at the same position it's pretty accurate with a 60+ game sample size. Emphasis on the sample size, that's very important, but like most people you probably already knew that and I didn't need to mention it (some people around here get mad when it's not mentioned though, weird).


    I need to research more about how RAPM works. That is good info to know that Chalmers is not getting specific RAPM credit for simply being the PG on the floor alongside the Big 3 + Ray Allen, etc. Still would like a better understand of RAPM and hockey passes as a lot of time that extra pass turns into a wide open high percentage shot.
  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    Yes, if he's making his team mates better his own RAPM gets better. If he's just on the floor with the best line up then his RAPM will drop unless he's a big reason why that line up is the best line up, and from what I've seen its surprisingly accurate. For example Mario Chalmers is top 20 in the league in +/- because he's always on the floor with the best line up, but obviously he's not a top 20 player, and his RAPM not even in the top 100 which is pretty cool. It even breaks up into offense and defense, which I call ORAPM or DRAPM, and if you compare it to other players at the same position it's pretty accurate with a 60+ game sample size. Emphasis on the sample size, that's very important, but like most people you probably already knew that and I didn't need to mention it (some people around here get mad when it's not mentioned though, weird).

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    There are bigger experts than me in this forum, I just have a layman's understanding which is that RAPM is an evolved version of +/- that adjusts a player's +/- score based on the +/- of his team mates. So you're saying Dwight is making his team mates better, that is something that RAPM would try to calculate into Dwight's RAPM.


    I think we are pretty much on the same page except that I would add that D12 is still in the learning phase with his new team in figuring out how to make his teammates better. That's good info to know that RAPM includes doing so. For the Rockets to succeed, D12 must improve his RAPM and in doing so, I believe he will also improve the RAPM of his teammates as they take the shots they want, rather than what they are forced into taking because the shot clock is winding down.

    Does D12 get credit for hockey passes? Just wondering as that seems to be the best way for the Rockets to likely get the best possible open shot that they prefer (in the shooter's preferred spots).
  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    You are the expert in regards to ORAPM and RAPM, particularly in discussions with someone like myself who is not as knowledgeable.

    I can tell you from what I do know of these statistics, that I believe D12 has the capability of increasing the RAPM of his teammates by making the right decision when the ball is in his hands. In Orlando, I would assume D12 would grade highly in his decision making as it seemed in many cases that either Orlando ended up with a wide open 3 or D12 made a move and hit a high percentage (upper 50's, maybe upper 60's in some games) of his shots in the lane.

    Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that if D12 makes the right decision most of the time (impossible to always make the right decision 100% of the time in the NBA) then he can effectively make his Rockets teammates more effective shooters by getting them the ball at the appropriate time. Then the shot clock winds down and a contested 3 is taken or a 3 point shot is forced to be taken from a less than preferred spot on the floor for that particular player.

    I believe a big reason the Rockets are struggling at the 3 point line thus far in the season is because the ball movement is not as crisp as it should be inside out and when the ball goes into D12 he is unsure in a lot of instances as to the proper play to make. Some of the hesitancy and uncertainty should begin to fade away the longer D12 plays with this group of players and understands where the outside shooters are most effective in taking their shots, etc.

    There are bigger experts than me in this forum, I just have a layman's understanding which is that RAPM is an evolved version of +/- that adjusts a player's +/- score based on the +/- of his team mates. So you're saying Dwight is making his team mates better, that is something that RAPM would try to calculate into Dwight's RAPM. Regardless, I'm pretty sure his team mates RAPM would go up more if he wasn't taking the ball out of their hands, he should be picking and rolling where Harden and Lin are at their best.

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    That's exactly what I've been agreeing about, with all the rule changes and evolved defensive tactics, it's so much more difficult nowadays for post players. Some of the best post players in the league have an ORAPM of 1 or 2, while the best guards in the league have an ORAPM of 5-8. The game favors perimeter player and we need to adapt to that,


    You are the expert in regards to ORAPM and RAPM, particularly in discussions with someone like myself who is not as knowledgeable.

    I can tell you from what I do know of these statistics, that I believe D12 has the capability of increasing the RAPM of his teammates by making the right decision when the ball is in his hands. In Orlando, I would assume D12 would grade highly in his decision making as it seemed in many cases that either Orlando ended up with a wide open 3 or D12 made a move and hit a high percentage (upper 50's, maybe upper 60's in some games) of his shots in the lane.

    Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that if D12 makes the right decision most of the time (impossible to always make the right decision 100% of the time in the NBA) then he can effectively make his Rockets teammates more effective shooters by getting them the ball at the appropriate time. Then the shot clock winds down and a contested 3 is taken or a 3 point shot is forced to be taken from a less than preferred spot on the floor for that particular player.

    I believe a big reason the Rockets are struggling at the 3 point line thus far in the season is because the ball movement is not as crisp as it should be inside out and when the ball goes into D12 he is unsure in a lot of instances as to the proper play to make. Some of the hesitancy and uncertainty should begin to fade away the longer D12 plays with this group of players and understands where the outside shooters are most effective in taking their shots, etc.
  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    But I distinctly remember watching Hakeem at work and there were times when he was unsure what the defense was going to do and he would hesitate a couple of seconds before either going into one of his incredible post up moves or fade away jumpers or pass out for a wide open 3 point shot. And this was in the days before the defensive 3 second violation and in the days before zone defense was allowed in the NBA. It's much more difficult nowadays, in my opinion, with the rule changes for someone in D12's position to make the right decision instantaneously (within a couple of seconds or less).

    That's exactly what I've been agreeing about, with all the rule changes and evolved defensive tactics, it's so much more difficult nowadays for post players. Some of the best post players in the league have an ORAPM of 1 or 2, while the best guards in the league have an ORAPM of 5-8. The game favors perimeter player and we need to adapt to that,

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    I agree that he needs a couple of seconds, but like I said that's the problem. Guards in general, especially our guards, are so much quicker at making the right decision in taking what the defense gives, whether it be a pass, shot, or drive--this is why the best post players in the leagues are guards or players with guard-like skills. If you check the Synergy stats, the most efficient post players are guys like Kobe, Lebron, Melo, ect.

    You're absolutely right about the 3-second violation too. The way the refs call the gave has evolved a long way from the 80's when post play was the way to go, the rules now favor perimeter players, and that's another reason why want the ball in the hands of our highly skilled perimeter players more.


    But I distinctly remember watching Hakeem at work and there were times when he was unsure what the defense was going to do and he would hesitate a couple of seconds before either going into one of his incredible post up moves or fade away jumpers or pass out for a wide open 3 point shot. And this was in the days before the defensive 3 second violation and in the days before zone defense was allowed in the NBA. It's much more difficult nowadays, in my opinion, with the rule changes for someone in D12's position to make the right decision instantaneously (within a couple of seconds or less).
  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    I'm not sure I agree. D12 needs a couple of seconds, sometimes maybe less, to survey the court and see if the defense is going to attack and double-, triple-team him or try to play him one on one.

    Remember, there is the defensive 3-second violation, but unfortunately, it takes 3 seconds of improper "zone" defense before it is called.

    It's not practical to expect D12 to figure out in an instant (less than 2 seconds) what the defense is up to on any particular possession.

    I agree that he needs a couple of seconds, but like I said that's the problem. Guards in general, especially our guards, are so much quicker at making the right decision in taking what the defense gives, whether it be a pass, shot, or drive--this is why the best post players in the leagues are guards or players with guard-like skills. If you check the Synergy stats, the most efficient post players are guys like Kobe, Lebron, Melo, ect.

    You're absolutely right about the 3-second violation too. The way the refs call the gave has evolved a long way from the 80's when post play was the way to go, the rules now favor perimeter players, and that's another reason why want the ball in the hands of our highly skilled perimeter players more.

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    That's the problem, if Dwight needs to take his time even more than it is it's going to hurt the team's ball movement. Imo his decision needs to be instant, pass or attack.


    I'm not sure I agree. D12 needs a couple of seconds, sometimes maybe less, to survey the court and see if the defense is going to attack and double-, triple-team him or try to play him one on one.

    Remember, there is the defensive 3-second violation, but unfortunately, it takes 3 seconds of improper "zone" defense before it is called.

    It's not practical to expect D12 to figure out in an instant (less than 2 seconds) what the defense is up to on any particular possession.
  • thejohnnygold says 9 months ago

    I for one am hoping Korver goes off tonight (for selfish fantasy BB reasons) while Horford gets smothered by Howard and Asik.

    I will agree that Horford and Millsap are very crafty and could get us in lots of trouble if we lose discipline on defense. I am looking forward to a Rockets win tonight.

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    In my opinion, D12 just needs to be more patient for a couple of extra seconds, figure out what the defense is doing, then either make a power move to the bucket or kick out for a wide open 3.

    It takes time for a new team member like D12 to figure out everyone else's "favorite spots" on the floor and at the same time trust that everyone else on the floor will make the expected, and appropriate, move.

    I believe that D12's early season tribulations is a major part of figuring out the simple things like where everyone else is at that moment on the floor, the best player(s) to pass back out to at that particular moment, and whether to make a power move now or kick out, etc.

    I think D12 is overthinking everything currently and just wants to prove how excellent a team player he can be going forward and is simply making poor decisions due to the learning curve.

    That's the problem, if Dwight needs to take his time even more than it is it's going to hurt the team's ball movement. Imo his decision needs to be instant, pass or attack.

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago In my opinion, D12 just needs to be more patient for a couple of extra seconds, figure out what the defense is doing, then either make a power move to the bucket or kick out for a wide open 3.

    It takes time for a new team member like D12 to figure out everyone else's "favorite spots" on the floor and at the same time trust that everyone else on the floor will make the expected, and appropriate, move.

    I believe that D12's early season tribulations is a major part of figuring out the simple things like where everyone else is at that moment on the floor, the best player(s) to pass back out to at that particular moment, and whether to make a power move now or kick out, etc.

    I think D12 is overthinking everything currently and just wants to prove how excellent a team player he can be going forward and is simply making poor decisions due to the learning curve.
  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    I think Dwight post up isn't actually a bad thing as long as we can incorporate it properly, it gives us another dimension and that rarely hurts. at this point the most baffling thing with Dwight postup is that when it happens the other guys seem to often do either nothing or silly things . like running right around Dwight to give a easy double team chance, or not standing in places where Dwight can kick out.

    Hmm you might have a point, if he can quickly kick it out and keep the ball moving that would be valuable. The guy running around is doing that to take his man away from doubling Dwight, but it might be more effective if he just stays there for the kick out.

  • RollingWave says 9 months ago

    I think Dwight post up isn't actually a bad thing as long as we can incorporate it properly, it gives us another dimension and that rarely hurts. at this point the most baffling thing with Dwight postup is that when it happens the other guys seem to often do either nothing or silly things . like running right around Dwight to give a easy double team chance, or not standing in places where Dwight can kick out.

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    True. I think Dwight is holding us back from playing our brand of basketball when he holds onto the ball too long, I hope that changes. It's crazy that we've got all these flaws and still rank so high offensively, from the turnovers, to shooting droughts, to the failed twin towers experiment, to Dwight's post ups--this makes me believe we have the potential to be historically great offensively.

  • RollingWave says 9 months ago

    well i'm guessing they put Harden on Carrol and Parsons on Korver if Harden plays. but the thing with Korver is that he often drains the 3 even when well covered.

    Honestly, as long as we play our brand of basketball, we really should never lose to any team not named OKC / MIA / IND / SAS/ LAC and maybe GSW and even against those 5-6 team we should be able to win half if we're serious about this whole contending thing

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    KYLE_KORVER.jpg

    Kyle Korver is a sniper.

    What are the chances he doesn't hit at least 4 triple's against our poor perimeter defense? Keep in mind Harden will probably be playing this game.

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    I think Lin is going to have a field day attacking the basket I think. Horford and MIllsap are good mobile defenders, very good at pick and roll defense, but neither provide great rim protection. Atlanta has enough talent to make it a good game, but I think we got this.

  • Buckko says 9 months ago

    Honestly Asik's worth as a backup C and Howard Insurance is more valuable than having Milsap as the 5th option in our lineup when Jones is more than doing a good job filling that role.

  • Johnny Rocket says 9 months ago

    The problem for the Hawks is that they are undersized at power forward and undersized at center, offering an opportunity for Howard, Jones, and Asik to dominate inside. (That's why the Hawks would be interested in Asik, as he would allow Horford to shift to the 4). Outside of Kover--who is the best three-point shooter in the league--the Hawk's outside shooting is pretty spotty. Tonight they got killed at home by Orlando, so we really should win the game pretty handily even if Hardin doesn't play.

  • RollingWave says 9 months ago

    Again, the Hawks are playing tonight in Atlanta, it's a pretty advantageous match up for us even without Harden