The Rockets in the clutch

Friday night’s affair against the Grizzlies featured a familiar theme with the Rockets sputtering down the stretch.  This season, in the last minute of games within 5 points, the team is shooting 29%, good for 25th in the league.  Conversely, the team shoots 46% overall, good for 10th in the league.

It’s obvious that the team’s shooting would dip during these situations – the game gets tighter and defenses are more locked in.  But the fact that there is such a drastic disparity in the figures in comparison to their peers is certainly cause for concern.  You would expect them to drop below 46% but to a figure in ratio with that tenth best ranking.

What’s going wrong?  As we’ve seen too often, down the stretch in close games, the Rockets abandon their set offense and turn to ISO-ball, looking to James Harden to jack up contested jumpers off of one foot.  Is this by design?

Teams often want to minimize risk in these situations by keeping the ball in the hands of the best player.  The thinking goes that if there are too many passes, and the ball is being distributed amongst lesser players, there is a greater chance of something bad happening.  But is this really applicable?

It would be one thing if the Rockets were running the Princeton offense with all 5 players expected to cooperate in complex read-and-react motions/cuts.  But their traditional offense is a simple high screen and roll.  Is there greater risk in Omer Asik bobbling a pass off the roll than there is off Harden missing a contested stepback ’3′?  (Actually don’t answer that – we may have our answer there as to why the team doesn’t run the pick&roll and why Dwight Howard would be such a significant upgrade…)

But in seriousness, if the fear is of teams trapping Harden and forcing the pass to Asik, why not just run a Lin/Harden pick&roll or Harden/Parsons?  I would think any situation leading to ball movement would be more efficient than a contested jumper.

The Rockets won’t fix this problem before the postseason because it’s probably too late.  But if they lose any close games in the first round due to their stagnant late-game offense, hopefully the front office will have a meeting with the coaching staff to discuss next year’s strategy.  You know the former for sure is aware of this problem.

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Total comments: 13
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah :S When will you be done? I'd want to say you can almost taste the freedom, but legal practice is a bad way of characterizing freedom :P

    And as an aside, FSS and I cleared up our joint misunderstandings in private messages. Just cyber misunderstanding hooha lol.

    I will be done in less than a month. :)

  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    yeah I'm not sure why they keep doing that, and it's super predictable, every team and even fan knows that gonna happen, the Memphis one actually worked to the extend that Harden's defender fell and he had a wide open look, just flat out missed it. in a lot of other games he just send prayer shots that had little chance of going in.

    Omer Asik being a poor PnR finisher doesn't help yeah, Greg Smith is a lot better at that but they don't have enough confidence in him to let him run that play.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    ^I have access but rarely go due to law school. =(

    Yeah :S When will you be done? I'd want to say you can almost taste the freedom, but legal practice is a bad way of characterizing freedom :P

    And as an aside, FSS and I cleared up our joint misunderstandings in private messages. Just cyber misunderstanding hooha lol.

  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    ^I have access but rarely go due to law school. =(

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Maybe in time you might learn what is appropriate that is my hope. My original post is a simple opinion of about 4 sentences that was nothing in depth. That much should have been clear but I am truly sorry if it was not.Not sure if you have noticed but if I am trying to make a point I usually write a few paragraphs. I was just being conversational.

    And mine was a simple question too? Not sure why you took it so badly. Do you find it that laughable an idea that the Heat only planned for isos in the clutch their first season together? I don't necessarily think so, and I know 2016 did not for awhile at least. I know people often remind me that Rahat has some access to Rockets' practices, so I was also curious if he (or anyone) happened to know if the team currently tries to run more clutch non-iso plays or not (i.e., have they even started to consider and implement it).

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Maybe in time you might learn what is appropriate that is my hope. My original post is a simple opinion of about 4 sentences that was nothing in depth. That much should have been clear but I am truly sorry if it was not.Not sure if you have noticed but if I am trying to make a point I usually write a few paragraphs. I was just being conversational.
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    That's is pretty humorous stuff. In case it's not clear I was offering an opinion not based on anything except my observations as a fan. I don't really need the smart ass comments but if you feel like your standing is better in the forum with such obvious sarcasm directed at me in that manner then have it your way.

    I took it to pms, where I think this is more appropriate. That being said, I was being earnest in my questioning. I think it is pretty viable that they chose to simply run isos their first season and just planned for them, having both LBJ and DWade on their team and no one else even remotely skilled (I guess Bosh, but he's probably down low).

    Not sure why the notion that the Heat might have planned to just use isos in the clutch is so much more absurd than the notion that the Rockets might be doing the same w/ Harden, as some have stated...I mean, 2016 had half a page talking about it and I could see the argument from that side (w/ LBJ shooting 50% from iso this season).

    I'm sorry you had such a negative reaction to my question.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago That's is pretty humorous stuff. In case it's not clear I was offering an opinion not based on anything except my observations as a fan. I don't really need the smart ass comments but if you feel like your standing is better in the forum with such obvious sarcasm directed at me in that manner then have it your way.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    ^I don't have time right now for as detailed a response as I'd like, but this is why I think the front office will definitely address this situation in the offseason. The superiority of set plays over isolation is something much discussed in the analytics community with consensus counter to the conventional wisdom (of which most coaches, presumably McHale) prescribe.

    Just like they sat down and formulated the plan to shoot 3s and run fast, they'll look into this as well and make it happen.

    EDIT: this was in response to 2016's post

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree with a comparison that 2016Champions made in another topic. He compared the Rockets to the first year the Heat superstars got together and specifically isolation plays that Wade and LeBron got caught up in. Now imagine those guys needed over a year to figure out how to play together and common sense would lead me to believe next year we will see more offensive complexity by Harden and Lin. All the 'coaches' in the forum would like it to change after a couple practices but that just isn't reality. Give them an off season, trust me.

    But different personnel and coaching organizations. How do you know what the Heat did behind closed doors? Maybe they did not even bother running too many plays their first yr because they realized how stacked their team was and thought iso plays would have been enough for late game clutch (I mean, it nearlywas enough). Pretty good closers on the team. So maybe less time would be enough to properly implement it, though obviously if Rockets got started on itnow it would be too late, but who is not to say they haven't been trying them in practice all this time? Someone here who has viewed the practices of both Miami and Houston able to chime in?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    But in seriousness, if the fear is of teams trapping Harden and forcing the pass to Asik, why not just run a Lin/Harden pick&roll or Harden/Parsons? I would think any situation leading to ball movement would be more efficient than a contested jumper.

    That might or might not work, Lin and Parsons don't set very effective screens, and if they roll out there could be help defense which results in us having to make more passes (something we won't always have enough time to do in end-game situations), and the rotation defenses we will see in the playoffs will likely be on point. I understand your thinking though, and I expect us to try more things in due time.

    To keep Dream7's stats within context, we should acknowledge the fact that some of Lin's shots are alot more open due to the attention Harden gets. With that being said, Lin is still very impressive. Harden is also impressive if you compare his clutch numbers to Kobe's. However, even if Harden is one of the best clutch players I want to eventually see more intricacy in end-game situations. I'm guessing McHale has more faith in Harden than he has in the team as a whole to run plays, and I don't blame him, but after he has an off-season to work with these guys I expect the intricacy level to improve just like it did with the Heatles (mostly towards the end of the their second season together).

    Here's a great article at how end-game plays are generally more effective than isolations, written by a friend of mine at forum.fullcourtpest.com:http://www.keeperofthecourt.com/2012/02/14/endgame-isolations-unfortunate-appeal/

    -No screens and no passes (isolation) equates to a success rate of about 25%
    -A combination of screens and passes (“combo” subcategories) sees success rates between 40% and 60%
    -Lots of passing and no screening is not necessarily productive

    Conclusion: Even though Harden's success rate on end-game isos is much higher than 25%, those studies show that there is a higher ceiling for end-game success if we run plays. I expect McHale to be putting alot of these things into practice during the off-season, andhopefully by the 2014 playoffs we will see more intricacy not much unlike the things mentioned in this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8mzjk1Q7G0

  • dream7 says 1 YEAR ago
    Clutch Stats (from nba.com) order by FG%
    FG 3FG FT
    Greg Smith 100% 4-4 75% 3-4
    Jeremy Lin 53.3% 16-30 62.5% 5-8 82.6% 19-23
    Donatas Motiejunas 50% 1-2 50% 1-2
    James Anderson 50% 1-2
    Chandler Parsons 42.3% 11-26 42.9% 6-14 70% 7-10
    James Harden 41.1% 30-73 33.3% 7-21 84.6%55-65
    Omer Asik 31.6% 6-19 100% 2-2
    Carlos Delfino 30.4% 7-23 26.7% 4-15 100% 4-4
    Patrick Beverley 25% 2-8 40% 2-5
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I agree with a comparison that 2016Champions made in another topic. He compared the Rockets to the first year the Heat superstars got together and specifically isolation plays that Wade and LeBron got caught up in. Now imagine those guys needed over a year to figure out how to play together and common sense would lead me to believe next year we will see more offensive complexity by Harden and Lin. All the 'coaches' in the forum would like it to change after a couple practices but that just isn't reality. Give them an off season, trust me.