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Why is Houston’s defense still bad?

Since Donatas Motiejunas entered Houston’s starting lineup, that particular five-man unit has allowed just 95.6 points per 100 possessions. It’s an elite figure, but the sample size is far too small to attribute it any meaning.

Motiejunas has played only 11 games with Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik beside him on the court. Here are the teams they’ve gone against: Nets, Wizards, Bucks, Magic, Mavericks, Warriors, Suns, and Timberwolves. Two of those teams boast top 10 offenses (barely), two are average, and the remaining four all find themselves ranked at or near the bottom.

For this entire season, Houston’s defense has been inadequate. Despite harboring one of the four or five best defensive centers in the game, along with a few players on the perimeter who can be disruptive on the ball, the Rockets have yet to figure out a consistent method to slow opposing offenses down. They allow 104.3 points per 100 possessions, making them the 10th worst defense in the NBA.

The good news is that most of their problems are correctable, or so it would seem. A vast majority of the open shots Houston allows are due to various mental mistakes: ball watching, losing track of shooters, failing to know when it’s time to shoot the gap and when it’s time to stick to your man, needlessly helping in the paint when proper help is already there.

These are all mistakes the Rockets make constantly, but all can be fixed. They don’t require an upgrade in skill or personnel, but more a change in mindset when it comes to defensive discipline. The Rockets are the youngest team in the league, so to watch them still endure growing pains shouldn’t be a surprise. Here are several examples.

Here we have Jeremy Lin standing at the free-throw line, leaving his man, Ricky Rubio, wide open behind the three-point line on the left wing. He’s there to help prevent a wide open driving lane for Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma, who’s operating a side pick-and-roll with Luke Ridnour.

Knowing the situation, is this really necessary? Let’s say Stiemsma catches the ball in motion at the right elbow. Then what? Even if Lin isn’t there, there are two back line defenders (Motiejunas and Parsons) plus the quick-footed Asik there to help. Also, Stiemsma isn’t good.

Here’s what happens:

Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham sets a back screen on Houston’s unsuspecting point guard, and Rubio is sprung for a wide open three ball. To Lin’s credit, this isn’t the most egregious play, being that Rubio is shooting less than 20% on three-pointers this season. But that doens’t mean he couldn’t position himself better.

The first clip of this article features James Harden, Houston’s best offensive player and worst defensive player. We’ve seen this type of indifference from him all season. This play in particular is alarming, but easily preventable if he wants to prevent it.

Rubio takes a contested pull up jumper on the right side of the lane, and off Harden goes, out past the three-point line looking for a quick fastbreak opportunity. As the Timberwolves grab the offensive rebound, Harden is still backpedaling towards the other end. Why? Well, he wants the easy basket on the other end, that’s why. And if you’ve ever played basketball before, can you really blame him? The play results in a wide open mid-range jumper for Luke Ridnour; the type of shot he could swish with both eyes closed while fixing a sandwich.

More on Harden later.

The next guilty party is Chandler Parsons, a player whose great overall skillset is often overlooked thanks to an uber-team friendly contract. In his rookie season Parsons began to make a name for himself as an incredible on-ball defender, and his work on Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant drew praise from both players.

This season Parsons has taken a minor step back on the defensive end; most of it is due to his random action away from the ball.

Rubio has barely penetrated past Lin and his reward is a rushed look at a snarling Asik. Look where Parsons is standing. Why did he drop so low, leaving Mickael Gelabale beyond wide open on the perimeter? (Gelabale is shooting 52.5% on the season.)

The play ends with Minnesota taking full advantage of Parsons’ mistake. Rubio swings the ball to Gelabale, who passes it to a wide open Stiemsma on the baseline after Parsons retreats for a late close out. Stiemsma sinks the shot.

But Parsons’ troubles don’t just come with weakside help. Here he is later on guarding Gelabale. Rubio sets a pin down screen but instead of following his man above it, Parsons cuts beneath, then unnecessarily runs into a second screen set by Stiemsma. Here’s the play:

(Before we finish up with one more play from Harden, I’d like to point out that the Rockets would be in the lottery if not for his work on the offensive end. Harden’s defense needs work, sure, but his effort with the ball is an irreplaceable commodity, and it’d be an honest shame if he didn’t end up in fourth or fifth place in the final MVP ballot. For all the gushing praise Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant receive for their play this season, Harden undoubtedly belongs in their class at the shooting guard position. Okay, now back to jumping on his defense.)

If I hadn’t already pointed out the play where Harden leaks out instead of staying with his man, could you even guess who he’s supposed to be guarding right now? Look at it in real time:

Harden is helping on a Stiemsma roll to the basket, but similar to the Jeremy Lin play from before, is his positioning a bit dramatic? As Rubio takes a dribble to the left, Harden hades more towards the middle of the court even though Motiejunas is already in the paint. Meanwhile, Harden’s man, once again Ridnour, drifts to the corner. Completely ignored. The ball is eventually swung to him and he hits the shot.

All these decisions by Houston’s defenders come with the strategy of packing the paint, disallowing penetration or anything easy near the rim. But they also all come with Omer Asik on the court, and what’s the use in over helping when you have a guy like that protecting the rim? (Asik is out on the perimeter guarding pick-and-rolls in a couple of these examples, but if the Rockets are so concerned with their interior defense in these situations maybe they should have Asik sag below the free-throw line to help contain the ball-handler whenever the opposing center isn’t all that great a risk of popping out for a jumper.)

Some of these open shots might be the result of scheme, but others simply aren’t smart basketball. Even after the Rockets make their run at a secondary All-Star caliber player, if they don’t clean up their defensive miscues a championship won’t be in the cards.

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Total comments: 71
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Tell that to all those Jazz teams, the Mavs teams with Nash, the Suns teams................ elite offensive teams with no rings.

    Celtics/Pistons/Spurs = elite defensive teams that got championships.

    I guess there's not enough correlation to prove any link.....lol

    agree........NO defense.......NO rings. it doesn't matter how you get it done as long as its done.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    feelingsupersonic:

    I feel sorry for you sometimes..................as my grandmother once told me sometimes its a hard job trying the keep all the chickens in the yard :lol:hang in there

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    Anyone on this thread pushing the boundaries of civil language with fellow forum members needs to remember that we have standards here on Red94 that you are expected to abide. We the officers strongly believe in Red94 being a forum for intelligent, engaging and civil debate and it is every member's responsibility to uphold those high standards.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    Defense is still overrated. A good offense beats a good defense all day.

    Tell that to all those Jazz teams, the Mavs teams with Nash, the Suns teams................ elite offensive teams with no rings.

    Celtics/Pistons/Spurs = elite defensive teams that got championships.

    I guess there's not enough correlation to prove any link.....lol

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago Defense is still overrated. A good offense beats a good defense all day.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yes, perhaps I should have clarified from the beginning. When I said "good defense" what I meant was "not-elite". Maybe it's arguable, but when I think of elite defensive teams I think you have to be a top 3 defensive team in the league at least. None of those Laker teams were even top 5, and one of them was 20th.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I can see both sides. TJG believes those were good to great defensive teams, if I'm not mistaken. I agree. 2016 believes that those teams were not as stout defensively than their opponents. Again, most of those matchups I agree with. But they were CLOSE. If our Houston defense came against any of the finals teams in the last 10 years, we'd lose by 40. Just because they weren't the better defensive team, didn't mean they didn't play good to great defense. Shaq was a top notch defender. Not as good as Duncan, but still good nonetheless. Kobe, when dialed in was pretty good defensively. Both sides are valid, but TJG seems to believe that you're belittling those team's defenses by calling them "okay" and "decent." If that was your point, then I agree with him. But if your point was that the other team was better defensively, then I agree. It would be like the Nuggets defense versus the Grizzlies' defense. Both are great defenses, but it's clear that the Grizz are better with Gasol. If the Nuggets won that matchup it would be the offense winning over the defense. But to say that the Grizz had an "okay" defense after the fact would be asinine.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Fine then, moving on.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I was vague in the beginning but I thought I clarified it. Lets just call it a misunderstanding and move on.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I think if you re-read it from the start it isn't so difficult to understand. I am saying they all played good defense...you never got above saying they play "okay defense". You're bluntness is not a problem. I never implied that you made a "silly notion"--if you felt silly that was your own doing.

    At best you said they played some defense and okay defense. I disagree with you. If you want to make vague assertions and manipulate words after the fact then I am going to have "reading and comprehension problems".

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I didn't mean any offense, I simply noted that I did make it clear I wasn't calling those Laker teams bad defensive teams. Then you went on to imply I made a silly notion that they were bad defensive teams. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems there was a failure of reading and comprehension on your part. I'm sorry if I was too blunt, I'm not trying to insult you here.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Seriously 2016? I'm only having one problem right now...

    If you believe those teams are exceptions to the rule then good for you. You asked for my input and then throw a thinly veiled insult at me. You are being disrespectful, arrogant, and impish. If you want to continue having any discussions with me I'll have to ask you to refrain from this.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Me: Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying LAL didn't play any defense at all, but they were not the better defensive team in those match ups. I still think defense wins more times than offense wins, but there have clearly been exceptions to this rule.

    You: The notion that these teams did not play good defense is just something I cannot believe.

    No offense, but it seems like you're having a slight problem with reading and comprehension.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, I will give you the short version

    The 1980 Lakers were 6th in the league defensively.

    The '00 Lakers had shaq, kobe, ron harper, ac green (still!) and john salley (former pistons bad boy)

    The '01 Lakers had shaq, kobe, harper, Rick Fox (underrated), and horace grant (underrated)

    The '09 and '10 Lakers had kobe, and 3 7-footers (Bynum, Gasol, Odom) as well as ron artest ('10) and shannon brown.

    The notion that these teams did not play good defense is just something I cannot believe.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Take the time, I welcome your insight.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I will not take the time to collectively refute each of those years...I think you're a little mistaken on this one.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    LA vs SAS 2001 WCF = win for the offense

    Indiana vs LA 2000 finals = win for the offense

    PHI vs BOS vs LA 1980 ECF and Finals = wins for the offense

    LAL vs ORL 2009 Finals = win for the offense

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying LAL didn't play any defense at all, but they were not the better defensive team in those match ups. I still think defense wins more times than offense wins, but there have clearly been exceptions to this rule.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I didn't even mention which Lakers team I was talking about lol

    well then name one to back up your statement

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I didn't even mention which Lakers team I was talking about lol

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    just thinking about those laker teams a few names come to mind besides kareem. how about cooper. ac green , rambis, scott, just to name a few. thinking that just because they scored a lot of points that there was no defense is simply untrue.

    JG you beat me to the punch on that one :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Also had Worthy, Cooper, AC Green, and Magic Johnson wasn't bad

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    thejohnnygold:

    I totally agree

    In the playoffs defense might be more important, but there have been quite a few Lakers teams that won championships with a dominant offense and just okay defense so it's not impossible.

    wrong those lakers teams had kareem they were good defensively.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    In the playoffs defense might be more important, but there have been quite a few Lakers teams that won championships with a dominant offense and just okay defense so it's not impossible.

    OK defense? If you say so...

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    In the playoffs defense might be more important, but there have been quite a few Lakers teams that won championships with a dominant offense and just okay defense so it's not impossible.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    That is interesting 2016, but I question that to some degree.

    In basketball the offense has the advantage as they can almost always get a shot off that has a chance of going in (Monta Ellis). Add to that the rules on fouling and defensive spacing (3 second rule) and it becomes a difficult task.

    Presuming we have all watched college basketball--where the athletic disparity is more pronounced from say, Kansas, versus a smaller school. Yes, offense is easier, but they simply destroy on the defensive end getting steals, rebounds, blocking shots, and forcing difficult shots from the perimeter resulting in tons of fast-break points. Even if Kansas were to suffer their worst shooting performance of the year they would still win.

    Offense, in the NBA, is valued so highly because there is not enough of an athletic disparity (for most players) to overcome the handicap put in place by the rules and the inherent offensive advantage. If a team can acquire a player like Dwight, Ben Wallace, Larry Sanders, KG, Lebron, Scottie Pippen, etc. then the defense becomes important again.

    Shots are still going to fall, but that must be handled on the other end where, ideally, you also have good offensive players that can then outscore the opponent with greater ease.

    This is why no team built entirely around offense has ever succeeded. Offense is generally streaky while defense is relatively consistent.

    Every single NBA roster has guys that can "fill it up"...it's the ones that can also lock it down that rise to the top.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I read an analytics article where the studies indicated offense does win more games than defense, and that's why so many teams are going small sacrificing defense for offense. At the time I thought it made a compelling argument.

    not in the playoffs

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago I read an analytics article where the studies indicated offense does win more games than defense, and that's why so many teams are going small sacrificing defense for offense. At the time I thought it made a compelling argument.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    That. And the fact that defense is overrated.

    False. Defense is underrated which is why so few players, and subsequently teams, are very good at it.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago That. And the fact that defense is overrated.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    McHale in an interview yesterday regarding why our transition defense is so bad:

    “Transition defense is a direct correlation to how many turnovers we’re having,” he said. “If we keep our turnovers low, our transition defense is okay. Our defense in the half-court has been pretty solid almost all year long, but then we shoot ourselves in the foot with having 12-to-15 turnovers from half-court to the top of the key, or free throw line to the half-court – those are almost impossible to come back on. Where we also get in trouble in transition is when a long rebound comes out and we don’t track it down; it gets tipped out and they get out and run.

    “We worked on our transition defense again. I thought we had that bugaboo out of the equation a little bit but it kind of crept back in with a bunch of new guys. There are certain things in our league where experience – you just can’t replace it. Transition defense is one of them. I’ve got to be processing who’s running down, how far you’re ahead. If I’m a big, I’m trying to get back to my big, but if I can’t I’ve got to take your guy. Then as soon as I can, I’ve got to change with my guard and get matched up. All that stuff requires a lot of communication and a lot of thought that is not conscious thought, but it’s just repetition where you kind of (naturally) do it. We had that but now it’s kind of a new group and we’re back to fighting it a little bit.”

    -via Rockets.com

    So basically, the bad transition D is a product of our high turnover rate which is a product of our inexperience.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Hustling back on defense on a consistent basis in itself will bump us up significantly in defensive efficiency. As for the back up C position, we need to find someone who can hold it down for just 18 minutes (less than that in the playoffs where Asik will play more minutes). All we need is a Marcus Camby type of guy. Lock defense is very overrated when you have someone in the middle to protect the paint, all you have to do is funnel everything towards him. Just look at how the Magic had a bunch of bad defenders surrounding Dwight and were still a top defensive team.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Regarding our pace and scoring 120-140--that's all relative...what matters in regards to that is point differential which is something we do need to improve on...I don't have the numbers, but in another post I removed the "blow-out" scores--both wins and losses--and doing that yielded a point spread in the decimals in our favor--basically breaking even--which reflects our record more or less. Improving our point differential is the key--this will happen in all the ways you both have mentioned so there is really no problem.

    Improved play from the PF, a back-up center that can defend, and a wing defender, plus overall improvement from everyone will help this and should happen. Morey's on the job--you can count on that.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    A good defender at the C position costs quite a bit. As does a Power Forward who plays defense. So I don't think those are easily fixed. A lock down defender would mitigate some of that. I'm not saying it's the only route, it's just a lot easier.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Did you know we have the best half court defense in the league while Asik is on the floor? And without a lock down defender...

    You don't get it, the reason our defense sucks there are 2 HUGE reasons:

    1. Not hustling back in transition.

    2. Asik's back up and a PF who isn't a good defender, which is a big deal considering Asik only plays 30 minutes.

    These things are easily fixed. If there are any other reasons those reasons are small compared to these two. Not having a lock down defender has very little to do with it.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    True, but they had lockdown defenders. Shawn Marion/Bell/Diaw(pre-weight gain)? Andre Iguodola? Serge Ibaka/Sefalosha? Kawhi/Duncan? Outside of Asik we don't have that lockdown defender on our roster. If we were to get one of those guys, obviously our chances would improve to be better defensively. Having a fast pace would not keep us from having a great defense. It would certainly hinder us somewhat, but teams do overcome that with great coaching and a team emphasis on defense. I hope we get that soon, but I don't think it comes quite as easily as you seem to think it will. Defense is not all about effort(contrary to popular opinion). It's about the system, the intelligence of the players, the instincts, etc.... There are many factors to consider. If that makes me ignorant in your eyes, then so be it.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    My mistake, I didn't mean to call him ignorant. I just meant that what he insinuated was ignorant.

    Remember the 2007 Suns? They were a very fast team and still above average defensively. If not for that nasty hip check Horry gave Nash that series could have went a very different direction.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Easy gents, it looks like timetodienow has merely written that he is realistic and that is fine. 2016Champions despite agreeing with what you are putting down I must say that I would never write "don't be ignorant" towards timetodienow. Top and bottom just keep it under control here please.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Lol. I'm hopeful, but realistic. If we're scoring that much, that means the pace is really high. Great offensive teams like the Nuggets/Heat/Spurs/etc... will take advantage of that and score a lot on us.

    Realistically our future is bright. Realistically young teams get better with experience. Realistically you're just being pessimistic, and you're just lying to yourself if you say you're not. I'm not saying that makes you a bad Rockets fan, I understand that's just how some people are and I accept you for being you. But don't be ignorant, you're insinuating that we will be always be a bad defensive team as long as we run. But look here:

    Denver is 2nd in pace and 11th defensively (their opponents average 102ppg). Spurs are 7th in pace and 3rd defensively. Thunder are 6th in pace and 6th defensively.

    It's not impossible to be a decent defensive team despite a fast pace. I can see plenty of reasons why we will get better defensively with the main one being experience, Be pessimistic all you want, it's nice to have a little yin and yang in the forum, but please try to avoid making ignorant insinuations.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    Lol. I'm hopeful, but realistic. If we're scoring that much, that means the pace is really high. Great offensive teams like the Nuggets/Heat/Spurs/etc... will take advantage of that and score a lot on us.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm nothing if not optimistic about the direction we're heading in, but some people prefer to be pessimists. To each his own.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago Giving up 120-140 points a game will also probably be a regular feat.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, it's a small price to pay in the short term. The Miami Heat were noticeably fatigued too that season the big 3 first got together, and the next season it was like their bodies adapted to pace. I think our young Rockets will be the way, next season everyone will be alot more used to the pace and we will see alot more consistency. Scoring 120-140 points on teams will be a regular feat.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Like I said in another post, I am not trying to debate with you rockets best fan. You have your opinion and I can respect that but there are some of us who think otherwise and I don't know why but we continue searching for answers.

    To johnnygold, I agree with what you are writing and I think we are on the same page. I would like to add that we all believe in the old adage that young NBA players have the energy, the hops, fresh legs and motor to keep going in an 82 game season. The difference here with our Rockets is that we are seeing this fatigue at every position when we normally say that about one or two youngsters on a team and therein lies the biggest difference. Morey must have know this would be a problem but I guess it's a small price to pay in the short term.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I look at the fatigue issue from the volume as well as the intensity stand point. These guys are learning about how much exertion it takes to compete at this level. As we all know--they are young and will adapt, but I believe it is a factor right now. Playing basketball full-throttle is very demanding. To do it for extended periods while maintaining the necessary mental acuity, body agility, physical stamina, and manual dexterity to stay sharp, quick, relentless, and able to knock down shots is tremendous--no matter who you are.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I don't buy the fatigue issue. we are young andwe are getting rest in this part of the season. we are getting good pratice time also. so neither of these should be a problem. if we were an old team I would say it was a concern, but that's simply not our problem. our problem is the subpar defense we have been playing all year simply will not get it done down the stretch and in the playoffs. our faults have found us out. teams are scouting us better now and know how to attack this swish cheese defense of ours. i'm hoping we make the playoffs, but if we continue to play defense like this we won't be there for long

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago

    I totally agree with you that fatigue is a huge factor. This is one knock I have against McHale--I feel like we could utilize more of our depth to help with this.

    If the Rockets want to run, run, run and generate more plays per game then conditioning and depth have to be a priority in order to benefit from the subsequent advantage over their opponent.

    In that light, the idea of spending our cap on 2 guys--Mayo and Millsap for example--instead of one could make more sense. That gives us more highly competent players to throw at the opposition. Eventually, they have to rest their guys or play tired--either way we should gain an advantage.

    Just exactly who can McHale trust and count on every night as far as bench play? Before the trade, we had some decent depth and energy coming off the bench. We have to figure out a new solution with the players we have now. This doesn't come easily and it may not come to all of our satisfaction quickly enough.

    The good news is we have 14 players on our roster (not counting Royce White anymore for obvious reasons), and other than our core group of Harden, Lin, Parsons and Asik, this is the perfect opportunity for the rest of our team to show us what they got and why they deserve even more minutes of playing time. Some of these guys have just simply got to step up and not only that, but be consistent.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    ^I was posting this on another thread don't know how it got here

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    good post 2016. I can't believe I am going to say this, but here goes..............hard swallow...........I agree with what mchale is saying :lol:basketball is basketball. sure there are always new waysto read and apply data, but it's not a complex game. score and keep your foe from doing the same.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago I like David west better than millsap because he plays decent defense unlike millsap
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I totally agree with you that fatigue is a huge factor. This is one knock I have against McHale--I feel like we could utilize more of our depth to help with this.

    If the Rockets want to run, run, run and generate more plays per game then conditioning and depth have to be a priority in order to benefit from the subsequent advantage over their opponent.

    In that light, the idea of spending our cap on 2 guys--Mayo and Millsap for example--instead of one could make more sense. That gives us more highly competent players to throw at the opposition. Eventually, they have to rest their guys or play tired--either way we should gain an advantage.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    One of the reasons I believe the Rockets defense might be getting worse is fatigue and there is not much coaches or analytics can do about it. These players are going to have to dig down and find another gear or more inspiration. Consider that the minutes these players are logging are even more strenious due to the very fast pace of the Rockets offense this year and there might be players running out of gas. Fatigue also tradionally leads to riskier defense, settling for 3's instead of driving and a lack of focus.

    player minute total this year through 67 games /last year total minutes

    Rotation players:

    Harden 2503/1946

    Parsons 2395/1804

    Lin 2177/940

    Asik 2014/971

    Smith 766/69

    Players that were overseas:

    Beverly 403/played for Spartak St. Petersberg (no where near as taxing as the NBA)

    Motiejunas 314/ played for Prokom Gdynia (we all know how tired he gets after about 5 or 6 minutes)

    The one notable exception though by seasons end he will have exceeded last years total:

    Delfino 1435/1537

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2013.html




  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, I am interested in watching the next couple of games and seeing if I can identify anything that the article alludes to. It absolutely makes sense that the Rockets are applying analytics to both sides of the ball. If so, I think the defensive transition will be much more difficult as that is so much about instinct and reaction.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IKWn-dCupk

  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago

    JG - that was actually a really good read, but the implications are tremendous. Do we assume that the Rox's defensive patterns are their attempt to match the analytics? Their offense seems to match what the analytics holds true - the higher value shots (corner 3s and layups) are being taken more frequently. If we see the affect of big data on one side of the ball, then we should be seeing it on the other side, as well. Well, theoretically.

    Perhaps McHale is the coach *because* he was more amenable to an analytics approach (due to his inexperience coaching), whereas Adelman was not? That's actually quite compelling.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I found an article on Grantland that may shed some light on all of this...well not really, maybe a light with obscure shadow puppets that we may or may not be able to discern...Still, I found it interesting. Caution, it's a Grantland piece so it is more of a short story than an article. LINK.

    The article is based on the Raptors, but it focuses on the use of analytics and the camera tracking technology. Specifically, it is looking at the defensive sides of analyitics.

    A couple of interesting things that popped up...

    1. Another possible reason why Kyle Lowry is not a Rocket is a contention with the use of analytics...

    "The players think it's all sort of geeky — Kyle Lowry cackled when I asked DeRozan about them..."

    2. Observing Jeff Teague from Atlanta, the author may as well have been talking about Lin or Harden...

    "But he's still finding the balance on defense between gambling for
    steals/watching the ball and marking his own guy. Teague's steals are an
    important generator of turnovers and easy points for an Atlanta team
    that has ranked near the top of the league in forcing turnovers and
    doesn't generate easy points via free throws. But smart teams know they
    can back-door Teague when he focuses too greedily on the ball."

    All in all, I have to believe the Rockets are up to their eyeballs in trying to compile, evaluate, and implement all this data. A lot of the findings are counter-intuitive from the player's perspective. Perhaps, what we are witnessing is not just the folly of youth on the Rocket's defense, but the re-education of the defensive minds of all the players as they try to go against instinct and play the "logical" defense that analytics prefers. I can only imagine that trying to play defense and react quickly while thinking about statistical probablities and floor spacing can freeze a defender--even if only for that split second--long enough for the offense to take advantage. Hopefully, this will get better in time.

    I don't fully understand--not even close, but it seems that the difference is focusing less on your player assignment and more on the play itself and acting in accordance with the most desirable outcome....if that makes any sense.

    Personally, I struggle to believe a computer can truly understand what it is to play defense until it understands guile, mis-direction, chance, fallibility, and dumb-luck.

  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    Sure there were lapses in Houston's defense in that game against Minnesota. The thing is, they won that game. Shouldn't this writer be better off criticizing Minnesota's lapses since it's Minnesota which should learn from their loss? Why blame Lin, Harden and Parsons and heave so much praise on D-Mo and T-Rob? D-Mo's defense stinks and T-Rob isn't even much of a factor. Have you really followed Rockets basketball games? This writer is an idiot who doesn't know basketball.

    The Rockets won, thus they must have played a perfect game.

    Great logic.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Sure there were lapses in Houston's defense in that game against Minnesota. The thing is, they won that game. Shouldn't this writer be better off criticizing Minnesota's lapses since it's Minnesota which should learn from their loss? Why blame Lin, Harden and Parsons and heave so much praise on D-Mo and T-Rob? D-Mo's defense stinks and T-Rob isn't even much of a factor. Have you really followed Rockets basketball games? This writer is an idiot who doesn't know basketball.

    Your tone doesn't make you sound like someone worth responding to, but in case you do have a genuine interest in intelligent discussion, here are a few thoughts about why what you just said doesn't really hold water:

    • Just because a team won, doesn't mean their defence wasn't full of holes.
    • This is a Rockets blog, it has no reason to cover Minnesota's defense.
    • The article doesn't even mention Thomas Robinson.

    ST

  • NathanZachary says 1 YEAR ago Sure there were lapses in Houston's defense in that game against Minnesota. The thing is, they won that game. Shouldn't this writer be better off criticizing Minnesota's lapses since it's Minnesota which should learn from their loss? Why blame Lin, Harden and Parsons and heave so much praise on D-Mo and T-Rob? D-Mo's defense stinks and T-Rob isn't even much of a factor. Have you really followed Rockets basketball games? This writer is an idiot who doesn't know basketball.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree wholeheartedly. But it's not just Lin doing that. EVERYBODY does it. We double team every big. I can't blame Lin. I have to blame the defensive system in place, which makes me blame Mchale. It could be that Lin and everybody else are doing the wrong thing, I don't know. But it's happened so consistently that I don't think that's a viable option.

    I agree. I think this is the system being taught. 1st thing is .....until a big man proves to you in the game he is having a good night you don't double at all. 2nd even when a double is necessary a good coach will bring it from different areas on each posession. the rockets have no sound defensive fundamentals. weak side defensive rotations are slow if at all. the rockets are getting plenty of pratice time right now so what's the problem............youth? yeah that plays a part..........effort? yeah that plays a part too, but the over riding problem I see is we are not praticing sound fundamentals. that's coaching

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Actually, the best time to employ a Zone Defense is when your opponent sucks at hitting outside shots. Definitely not the case when matched up with G-State the way they were shooting last night!

    Zone Defense is best to keep opposing teams centers and power forwards from gobbling up easy points and rebounds in the lane.

    If you spread the perimeter defense, they don't get that kind of open looks. You defend the 3 and if the opposite guard eludes the defender he has two options: go to the rim and try to beat Asik or settle for the mid-range jumper. We all agree that we need the opposition to take those long 2s. And, like we all say, stop double teaming, and that goes for Lin, Harden, Parsons and every player who doesn't play PF or C.

  • Brookaveli says 1 YEAR ago

    Zone Defense is best to keep opposing teams centers and power forwards from gobbling up easy points and rebounds in the lane.

    I disagree about the rebounding part. While a zone sometimes means that there are more defenders near the basket, it makes it harder for defenders to find a man and box out.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree wholeheartedly. But it's not just Lin doing that. EVERYBODY does it. We double team every big. I can't blame Lin. I have to blame the defensive system in place, which makes me blame Mchale. It could be that Lin and everybody else are doing the wrong thing, I don't know. But it's happened so consistently that I don't think that's a viable option.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    We see this scheme again and again in every games. To me, it was designed by coaching staffs. If not, it should have pointed out and fixed long ago.

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago

    Thanks for the data, ST!

    McHale might be allergic to zone defense. I know it's not the way to go full time, but we might take a shot at it when shots are raining from beyond the arc. It's an option, and right now, we couldn't defend worse even if we put 4 cones next to Asik, so no loss in trying.

    Actually, the best time to employ a Zone Defense is when your opponent sucks at hitting outside shots. Definitely not the case when matched up with G-State the way they were shooting last night!

    Zone Defense is best to keep opposing teams centers and power forwards from gobbling up easy points and rebounds in the lane.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    The issue is with the perimiter defenders, Parson, Lin and Harden, they tend to help too much as soon as one of the other teams big post up, which leaves their players open, or Harden trying to cherry pick on a long shot, ending up losing the box out and having 5-4 for a short period. I don't understand why they would do that especially when they are posting up against Asik. Lin is very prone to try to edge closer to the big man and so is Parsons. They need to be close enough to their guy and let Asik do his job. There aren't that many great post up big men any more and even if Asik faces one, I take that odds anyday. We just need to stay on the perimiter and prevent the 3s and the cutters.

  • idiotfan says 1 YEAR ago the big problem with the up-tempo offense is theys get tired. you can't be intense on both ends of the floor. These guys get tired. they are terrible playing the second game of a back-to-back bc they get tired. As for the collapse against Golden State, I had a feeling it might happen. They heard footsteps in the playoff race, with Utah and LA both winning the other nite. These guys are still newbs when it comes down to crunch time. Harden has experience and Lin seems to rise to the occasion if he's not pooped. But I had a feeling the other Rockets might freeze up in this game with playoff ramifications, and coincidentally, they froze up.
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Thanks for the data, ST!

    I've wondered the same...can anyone offer some reasons why we don't take our own advice? Wouldn't a zone defense force opponents to shoot from certain spots (mostly mid-range)?

    McHale might be allergic to zone defense. I know it's not the way to go full time, but we might take a shot at it when shots are raining from beyond the arc. It's an option, and right now, we couldn't defend worse even if we put 4 cones next to Asik, so no loss in trying.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I've wondered the same...can anyone offer some reasons why we don't take our own advice? Wouldn't a zone defense force opponents to shoot from certain spots (mostly mid-range)?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I personally thought this article nitpicked a little too much. Leaving Rubio open is what alot of teams do, not just Lin. And at least 1 guy is supposed to leak out in our offense. The biggest defensive concerns imo is our back up 5 and the fact we have Delfino playing the 4 too often.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    @ale: basketball-reference.com says that the Rockets are ranked 26th in opponent 3P% in the league, and also allow the 4th most three point attempts per game. So your eye-test definitely checks out.

    ST

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Somewhere along the season, I heard that our philosophy was to drive to the rim to draw fouls, make easy lay-ups or kick to the open man (that's all obvious), since they are the most effective plays. That same reason was why defensively the coaching staff was looking to prevent from the opposition. Instead, Harden, Lin and sometimes Parsons keep trying to double team leaving their man wide open, and just like we make a lot of 3's, I think we are one of the worst permissive defenses when it comes to 3's (if someone could provide some stats, I would be grateful).

    If you have two bigs defending inside and three guys watching the perimeter, it's likely that the other team would have to settle for mid-range jumpers, which be the ideal....if we keep double teaming, eventually, they'll find the open man, just like we do, and not every team in the league has a Harden, or a Lin that could easily beat his man every single time they march to the basket so that you HAVE to get help.

    Maybe is lack of focus, or maybe it's just lack of confidence in individual defense. Double-teaming a big at the elbow is unnecessary (unless it's Nowitzki, Garnett or Aldridge). Or maybe it's about upping the stats in steals (which I don't think is the case).

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