Memphis Grizzlies 93, Houston Rockets 85

“What do you think is the best publicly available defensive metric?”

“None really.”

That was one of Daryl Morey’s responses on a Reddit chat that he conducted this September.  (Yes, really.  It’s quite fascinating.)  In interviews he has repeatedly stressed the importance of defense and stated that to make the Conference Finals, much less the Finals and the ultimate crown, without a top 10 defense is basically impossible.  Much of the search for a big man post-Yao has focused more on the big man like Tyson Chandler who can defend, rebound, and sometimes score putbacks.

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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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