Are you one of those people who bemoans the death of the midrange game? Do you find yourself nodding your head when you hear, “You have to guard him, because he can hit that 16 foot jump shot?” Are you constantly yelling at the TV when your team doesn’t guard the opposing stretch 4 outside the paint? If so, this piece is for you.
I know I’ve said this countless times before, but we are so much smarter now. It’s not just about what data we collect, it’s also about how we use data to think about basketball. Cliches that used to be sacrosanct are now consistently criticized. Some have legitimately been debunked. Some are well on their way to the same graveyard. Curmudgeons who grumble about how the game is not the same (ahem, Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, or anyone else named Charles) are basically old men complaining about how they didn’t need cell phones when they were growing up. Nostalgia is adorable. Unimaginably greater communication capacity is better.
As I just tweeted, Patrick Beverley isn’t exactly setting the world on fire right now.
But as revealed by the eye-test, he isn’t stopping anyone this year either. The numbers, unfortunately, confirm:
Overall, opponents are shooting 45.1% against Beverley. They shoot 44.4% otherwise. On 3’s, opponents are shooting 34.2% against Beverley, and 35.25% otherwise. On 2’s: opponents are shooting 50% against Beverley, and 48.4% otherwise.
Within 6 feet, opponents are shooting 66% against Beverley, while shooting 60% otherwise; within 10 feet, they are shooting 60%, while shooting 54% otherwise.
Now you might say “hold on. That percentage at the rim is just as much an indictment on the Rockets as a whole as it is of Beverley.” And you’d have a point. But that would mean you’d be getting torched regardless of who you put out there, and I have a hard time believing it could be that much worse. Wouldn’t you be better off playing someone who at least gave you something offensively?
At this point, Houston is almost playing 4 on 5.
“We won,” James Harden replied in the postgame interview, deflecting a question about a chippy play earlier in the game, “That’s all that matters.” The two point margin doesn’t matter today. The Flagrant foul by Matt Barnes and the altercations involving Blake Griffin don’t matter. The fifteen point lead the Rockets held in the third quarter that turned into a tie at the end of the fourth doesn’t matter. In a game like this, the only thing that matters is who gets the W and who gets the L. Today, the Rockets grabbed the W, and Harden’s team is one game closer to the playoffs.
James Harden, after two games of looking listless and lost, lit it up in Los Angeles. The Clippers looked in control in the first quarter, but the Harden came alive in the second and nobody could contain him. He may have played 41 minutes, but with no back to back games until March 30th, Harden can afford to burn at both ends for a big game against a potential playoff opponent. He shot 7-16, hit the first 17 of his 18 free throws, scored 34 and tacked on 7 rebounds and 7 assists to go with it. This is the sort of game the Rockets have been needing from him, and he picked the perfect game to return to form. After his dud in Portland, the national audience needed a reminder of what Harden can do.
I wrote this morning on the impact of losing Dwight Howard, citing the team’s drop-off since losing the big man in both overall defensive efficiency and on the defensive glass. While the disparity isn’t as big as you’d expect, it’s still significant.
However, I’m wondering how the numbers would look if the pairing were Dwight and Terrence Jones, rather than Dwight and D-Mo or D-Mo and Jones. In essence, I’m wondering how last season’s pairing would look now in light of Jones’ improvement.
Jones is a far superior shot blocker and rebounder to D-Mo, so you would have to think the team’s rebounding rate would skyrocket with Dwight and Jones playing together. But what happens to the offense? The team’s offense has actually been better without Dwight, and that’s probably not too big of a shocker. The floor is more spread, the middle is unclogged, and valuable possessions aren’t wasted on Dwight postups. You could also say D-Mo is a better fit for Jones than Dwight. D-Mo can play outside leaving the paint unclogged for Jones to operate.
It will be interesting to see how things play out once Dwight comes back. The team absolutely needs him to survive, but there will certainly be concerns.
The NBA season is a funny thing, isn’t it? It seems like just days ago that the league admitted ineptitude in its handling of a non-call that could’ve pushed the Rockets within inches of second in the West. Instead, the team is licking its wounds after getting hammered inside by the Jazz, sitting in fourth, and dangerously close to even seventh with the San Antonio Spurs rolling on all cylinders. Whoever said the NBA season was a marathon wasn’t joking. It was just yesterday it seems we were all bantering on Twitter whether Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones could be the team’s future at the 4-5, almost prematurely turning the page on the Dwight Howard era. But after Rudy Gobert and the Blazers gobbled the Rockets big men up on the glass, the feeling in Houston is that Superman can’t come back soon enough. It’s clearer than ever: despite his efforts in muddying up the Houston offense, this team doesn’t have a prayer in the postseason without Howard.