Apart from “points off turnovers,” almost all of basketball’s statistics tend to separate offense and defense as two different systems geared towards the common goal of winning. However, unlike football or baseball—where the two groups are understandably divided—the relationship between offense and defense in basketball is much more fluid, and far more complex.

With a steal, turnover, or made basket, any five-man unit can go from offense to defense (and vice versa) in the blink of an eye. Possessions rarely go longer than 20 seconds, and one might think both sides of the ball would have a clearer statistical correlation. This doesn’t appear to be the case.

But in Houston, a direct alliance could exist this season between their offense and defense—particularly if Kevin McHale continues to deploy an up-tempo, free-throw/three-point heavy style—with one helping the other perform at a much higher level than we all thought possible. [read more…]

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Denver Nuggets 93, Houston Rockets 87

I’m enjoying these new Rockets, but my forehead’s getting a little sore. For a fun project, I decided to tally up how many times I reflexively slapped my hand against my forehead while watching tonight’s game. It turns out the number was fifteen, and the last tally mark was by far the biggest. That last tally mark let the Nuggets seal the game.

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Early Season Observations: Beard Edition

The 2012-2013 incarnation of the Houston Rockets has played only three games to date.

Given the early stage of the season and the roster turnover since last year, year-on-year team comparisons will be difficult to make. Instead, I’ve decided to take a deeper look at the Rockets’ marquee offseason acquisition to better understand Harden’s offensive prowess and see what effect playing on a new team has had on Harden’s statistics.

Last season, the Thunder were a whopping 15 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Harden on the court.[1] While the Thunder also gave up 7 points per 100 possessions more when Harden played, the net result was still a benefit of +8 points per 100 possessions. Out of four OKC line-ups that logged more than 100 minutes last season, the two most effective ones both featured Harden; the second most-productive was a pure bench unit without either Westbrook or Durant.[2]

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Preview: Denver Nuggets @ Houston Rockets

After three days off, a hopefully rejuvenated Rockets team takes on the Nuggets at home. A three day break is an eternity in NBA terms, and McHale will have been using the rare opportunity for extended practice time to work out some wrinkles in both the offensive and defensive sets. The extra time for the newcomers from OKC to get accustomed to their new team mates should also have been useful. It will be interesting to see if that increased familiarity will help Houston cut down on their turnovers – after three games, they are averaging nearly 20 per game. It feels like this break has come at the perfect time for the team, letting everyone (fans included) sit back and take stock of what were a memorable first three games and providing time to get ready for the long haul ahead.

On the other side of the ball, Denver will be coming in having played at home against Detroit the night before. No three day break for them! To compound matters, it seems that coach George Karl has settled on a fairly tight rotation. On Sunday night against the Heat, he used only 8 players, though in light of the back-to-back (and perhaps the relative strength of the opposition) he may choose to go a bit deeper into his bench for these two games. In any case, Houston’s fresh legs should be a useful advantage as the game wears on.

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