At 22-13, and fifth in the West, the Houston Rockets have thus far performed below expectations.  When that happens in professional sports, much of the blame typically lies at the feet of the star player.  Six Red94 writers got together to discuss the case of James Harden and some of the problems in Houston.

Rahat: Richard Li’s latest piece has really got me thinking.  The Rockets have one of the worst crunch-time offenses in basketball and this is a continuation from last season.  And of course, the Rockets’ crunch time offense essentially is…James Harden.  Michael Pina wrote a piece earlier in the week on Harden’s ever-evolving offensive game.  But the rest of us have written extensively on his lack of even feigning effort on the defensive end.  How much of the problem in Houston right now is Harden?

Rob: It’s easy to get sucked into focusing too much on Harden’s flaws, but I think we are generally a little quick to criticise him. You only have to look at the box score from Friday’s game against the Knicks to realise how valuable a player he can be – 37 points on 19 shots is going to take a lot of negatives to counter-balance! The grumbling starts when he goes through an offensive funk, and suddenly there are a few games where he doesn’t quite have the ballast to set on the scales against his poor defense and late-game mismanagement. The Rockets are unfortunate enough to have been going through one of those periods recently, and that’s why we’re starting to feel more down on him than we should be.

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in conversations

Coming off a disappointing loss to Sacramento, this was a key game for the Rockets to get back on track. Some bad habits have been forming that it would have been nice to see broken, but more important was to get a win to stop the team from sliding any further down the Western Conference standings. They weren’t perfect, and they left it late, but eventually they hung on for an important win.

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in game coverage

What happens during crunch time


Click for a full-sized interactive version

The above collection of charts shows how the Houston Rockets perform on four metrics during “crunch time,” defined as the last five minutes of a game in which the Houston Rockets are behind by five points or less, or tied.

Technical details

On the x-axis are seven different periods of time. The first one, called “all,” shows performance in a metric for the entire game. The next six shows a team’s performance in a metric only when the team is behind by five points or less, or is tied, with a certain amount of time left in the game. The blue line represents the Houston Rockets. The orange line represents all teams. So, if we look at the first chart, it shows how the Houston Rockets and the rest of the NBA perform on defense in general, and how that performance changes when the game is close and less time remains in the game.

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in essays

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