The Rockets are coming off a nice victory against the Spurs and an ugly win against the Grizzlies. Which team will show up tonight against the Pelicans? While not quite a team of Jekyll and Hyde proportions, Houston has not been able to get on a big run of wins this year, and dominate in a way that would make fans believe tonight’s game will be a win. The Rockets are still having to gut out games against opponents like the Pelicans. Houston’s record in December is 7 and 6.
The strong consistent play of Howard, the emergence of Jones as an all-around player, the continued growth of an already impressive Parsons, the speed of Lin pushing the ball and Harden’s health improvement are all converging factors for a positive emergence of Houston’s future. Though currently the Rockets sit 5th in the West, they are at serious risk of another first round exit if the playoffs were held today.
While watching games, I’m simultaneously intrigued by and skeptical of stats that announce that player X does Y at Z effectiveness when his team wins, and not when his team loses. It’s a nice thought, that one player’s specific behavior might indicate, or even predict, his entire team’s outcome, but the choices of data are mostly arbitrary.
To make this exercise a little more robust and interesting, I decided to inject some statistical steroids into the traditional analysis. Below is a graph that shows the difference in five indicators (assist ratio, defensive rating, offensive rating, true shooting percentage, and usage percentage) between team wins and losses of all nine of the Houston Rockets regular rotational players (click for a full-sized interactive version).
The Best Things In Life Are Free – James Harden set a new record last night, and it’s the most James Harden-y record he could possibly set. According to ESPN Stats & Info, his 27 points were the most ever by a player who made two or fewer field goals. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and the Beard’s gotta shoot free throws.
Yeah, About That – Zach Randolf was a little unhappy about how that all went down. He was given a technical for barking at the refs over Harden’s trail to the line, and after the game, he said:
“It was the refs tonight. Eight against five. The game in the second half, a man was shooting free throws every time. We were out there playing hard, and they were dictating the game. It can’t be like that. We are out there playing, too.
As I wrote in a comment thread last night, I feel like Harden earned just about every free throw. Unlike some of his greatest foul-drawing predecessors–Kobe, Dirk, and even aging MJ–Harden seldom draws ticky-tack fouls on fadeaways, which are the ultimate “superstar” calls. He beats his man off the dribble and thrusts the ball forward as he gathers it. The result is usually that his man reaches for the ball from behind and grabs his arm, or the helper tries to slap the ball away and gets all arm. Basically, he begs defenders to abandon “verticality” and start swinging, and once that happens, whistles blow.
Occasionally, Harden gets the Kobe treatment: refs just wait to see if he missed the shot, then blow a whistle. Last night they made calls as soon as there was contact. Also, on a night when your opponent’s best player hits the bench halfway through the third quarter with five fouls, you might want to think twice before criticizing the officials, Z-Bo. [read more…]