One of the early surprises of the NBA season is the four and four Sixers. Much of their success is due to their new 6’ 6” 185 lb. rookie point guard, Michael Carter-Willliams. The 11th pick out of Syracuse went to a team whose expectations are not very high this year, thus assuring him of some steady playing time.
While everyone had been picking Victor Oladipo as the projected Rookie of the Year, Carter-Williams early performances have many taking a closer look at the youngster. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him bring it against the Rockets, but he missed practice on Tuesday due to a sore foot and is currently listed as day to day. He’s currently scoring five more points a game than Oladipo.
After eight games he leads all rookies in scoring at 17.4 per game. He’s also leading in minutes at 36.6 a game and is third in three point shooting percentage. Marc Stein points out that only two rookies have 130 points and 50 assists in their first seven game as a pro. The other is Oscar Robertson.
The Rockets eked out a tough victory at home against a marginal Raptors team on Monday, but took two overtimes to secure the win. Terrence Jones made the most of Garcia’s flu and had a whopper of a game, ten boards (the Rockets now lead the league in boards per game) 32 minutes and he played big in both overtimes.
Jeremy Lin had his breakout game of the year. With Harden struggling from the three point range, Lin continuously took it to the hole and shot 50% from behind the arc, definitely sparking that Linsanity flint. Harden is playing through a lot of early season injuries (both feet, wrist and back) and it’s just a matter of time before he returns to shooting at a higher percentage.
I agree with Paul McGuire that the three point percentages are one of the main issues for the Rockets. It’s impossible to get a gauge on the other questions the team has when the outside shots won’t fall. Harden is jacking 7.6 a game and is only hitting at a rate of .276. Beverley and Parsons are shooting it worse than that. Lin is the best at .455. Early hopes were that Casspi and Garcia could supplement the three point attack, but now they are our second and third best options.
The Rockets need to hit from the outside, watch their turnovers and continue to develop the team chemistry that will eventually lead to improvement. The Rockets aren’t at a level yet to consistently beat the top tier of the NBA, but they still have that potential. At five and three, that still projects to 50+ wins this season, and this team will get better as the season goes along.
The Sixers are currently 16th in the ESPN power rankings and have lost four of their last five. This game is a much needed win for the Rockets against a team that looks less than average. Still learning, gelling and beating these marginal teams gives them some room for error against the best in the league. I predict a win on the road.