Houston Rockets 104, San Antonio Spurs 98 – That’ll do it

It took a while to get there, but the Rockets finally clinched home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs happened to be the team in the way of it, and they also happened to get swept by the Rockets. The Spurs might have been resting starters late, they may have let many key players sit the whole game, and they may have rallied back with their deep bench, but in the end a win is a win. The Rockets will bring the playoffs back to Houston for game one… right after one game in New Orleans.

If you squint just a little bit, that was a great showing from the Rockets. Sure, much of it came against Cory Joseph and Jeff Ayres, but that’s not as big of an asterisk as it may seem. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best ever because his system is the team MVP. There’s a reason the Spurs won 60 games despite suffering injury after injury. To beat the Spurs’ bench is still to beat the Spurs’ system, something teams like the Miami Heat have learned well. The Rockets also seemed to face well against the starters for San Antonio, only stuttering when the Spurs bench stepped in. This has been a common malady lately, and one that likely stems from effort and urgency as much as anything else. Don’t let anyone tell you this wasn’t a good win.

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The simplest way to measure individual offensive efficiency

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UPDATE: I received a request to change points attempted per game to points attempted per 36 minutes. That made a lot of sense, so I did. The biggest difference resulting from this change is that I think this chart now very concisely captures the criticism levied against Russell Westbrook. He is 2nd in the league in points attempted per 36 minutes with a whopping 53, just barely behind his 1st place teammate Kevin Durant, who has 53.61. The difference, of course, is that Durant converts on  55.83% of his attempts whereas Westbrook converts on 48.43% of his attempts, or right at the league average. Even infamous chucker Carmelo Anthony attempts to score less, and scores more efficiently, than Westbrook, and he doesn’t have Kevin Durant to pass to. 

Sometimes, probably most of the time, the simplest solution is the best. Admittedly I haven’t always been good at keeping things simple, but I’m going to rectify the situation with this post.

There are quite a few indicators available to measure offensive efficiency. Some combination of usage, effective field goal %, true shooting %, and points per possession is usually thrown around in the name of efficiency. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Efficiency is just about two components–number of times something is attempted and number of times those attempts are successful.

In the case of basketball, we’re talking about trying to score and actually scoring. The above chart plots the number of points players tried to score per game against the percentage of their attempts that were converted (points scored / points attempted). For the record, the chart considers all attempted and scored 3pt-fgs, 2pt-fgs, and free throws. Only players who played at least 45 games and at least 22 minutes per game were included.

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The Rockets Daily – April 14, 2014

Rooting Interest - Last night in Portland, the Blazers beat the Golden State Warriors in overtime, 117-119.  And be sure, this game is absolutely deserving of discussion on a Houston Rockets forum.  It was perhaps the first time all season that I openly rooted for the Warriors, always afraid Steph Curry would end up in a first round matchup with the Rockets.  But with just two games remaining on Houston’s schedule and one for Portland, the Rockets are in a position where if the Blazers win their final game at home against the nothing-to-play-for Clippers, and the Rockets can’t beat either San Antonio or New Orleans, Portland will end up hosting the first-round and not Houston.

It would be devastating from psychological standpoint, if not a strategical one, for the Rockets to play so much of the season in the upper-tier of the Western Conference, only to falter at the end and find themselves on the road for Game 1.  And the Rockets aren’t exactly going into the playoffs under ideal conditions.  The team peaked a month ago, losing only two games in February, while going 15-2 at one point.  But since April arrived they have been a mediocre .500 club.  Now, on the precipice of the playoffs, the Rockets find themselves injured (Howard, Parsons and Beverley have all missed games) and tired (Houston is the only team with two players, Harden and Parsons, in the top-ten in minutes played).  And with the Blazers victory last night, there will be no rest for the weary.  Read More »

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To rest or not to rest?

With two games to go before the playoffs, the Houston Rockets face a quandary. Should head coach Kevin McHale rest his starters (and key bench players) for these last two games? If so, how much? Perhaps most importantly, how does Portland’s overtime win over Golden State figure into it? Some teams will simply shut down before the playoffs while some bear down on the starters. Which path will the Rockets take, and more importantly, which path should they take?

As far as predicting the next couple games, the safe bet is on minutes for the starters. McHale has never been shy when it comes to minutes load, and it seems unlikely that he would change that up for two games. Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard were on a minutes restriction after returning from their respective injuries. That minutes restriction took exactly one game to get blown out of the water when the Rockets needed contributions from them late in a tight game against the depleted Pelicans. McHale might surprise, but the safe money is on a playoff rotation for the next two games.

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Houston Rockets 111, New Orleans Pelicans 104: 15 to 0 run finishes the Pelicans

This game really mattered.  After a run of games with Howard and Beverley hurt, the Rockets hold on the 4th seed was slipping. They were 5 and 5 in their last ten and their momentum late in the season seemed to be slipping away.  It wasn’t looking good for Houston for most of the game.  The Pelicans were playing without seven players tonight, but they led most of the game and were up by 11 with 9:20 left on the clock.  That’s when the Rockets woke up.  Desperate to get something going (and with Parsons out with hip and wrist ailments) McHale went with a line up of Harden, Lin, Beverley, Daniels and Howard.  That was the line up that finished the game on a 15 to 0 run to close it out.

This game was important.  McHale had mentioned that Howard and Beverley were going to get 20 minutes.  Howard played 29 and Beverley played 33 and they were the difference.  Beverley is the true heart of this team and having him back on the floor changes the intensity level of the rest of the Rockets.  After missing 8 games, the Red Bull hit 4 threes and had 14 points in the 4th quarter.  His back to back 3’s with two minutes left were mercurial.

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