The Rockets’ Recent Struggles

On Monday night, the Rockets finally broke out of their losing slump with a six-point win over the lowly Bobcats. Prior to this victory, Houston had lost seven consecutive games and squandered much of the cushion they had built for themselves earlier in the season. What, if anything, was the cause of the Rockets’ recent slump, and are there any implications for the season going-forward?

Over a span of eleven days (January 9th through January 19th), the Rockets lost seven consecutive games against the Hornets, Celtics, Sixers, Clippers, Mavericks, Pacers, and Timberwolves. In these seven losses, Houston’s average scoring margin was -9.1 points per game (compared with their season average of +2.1 points per game). Indeed, the Rockets were outscored by an average of nearly 10 points per 100 possessions during this stretch. Looking purely at opponent winning percentages, this stretch of the Rockets’ schedule does not appear to be particularly difficult: the average current winning percentage of the teams Houston faced over this eleven day period was 50%. This compares with a 51% average winning percentage of all teams Houston has played so far. Another indicator provides some more clues, however—all but one of these seven games were played on the road. To date, the Rockets are 14-7 at home and only 8-14 on the road: nearly half the winning percentage in a comparable amount of games. Thus, part of Houston’s recent woes may be due to a shift away from their home-heavy schedule at the start of the season.

On a deeper level though, much of the blame for Houston’s losing streak can be placed on the offense. In those seven games, only once (against the Clippers) did the Rockets post even a league-average effective field-goal percentage. Despite ranking 5th in offensive efficiency for the season (at a robust 105 points per 100 possessions), the Rockets had four instances of sub-100 points per 100 possessions scoring, including an 86 points per 100 possessions stinker against the Hornets, a scoring rate inferior to that of the league-worst Wizards. The simple fact of the matter is that Houston failed to convert shots at their typical rate: the team’s effective field goal percentage (which accounts for three-pointers) over these seven losses was only 48%, versus their season average of 52%.

In particular, James Harden, the Rockets leading scorer and user of 29% of all possessions while he’s on the floor, struggled mightily during this stretch. On the season, Harden has a TS% of 61%; in these seven games, Harden’s TS% were 61%, 40%, 40%, 35%, 51%, 64% and 54%. Three of these outings (against the Timberwolves, Pacers, and Mavericks) were truly putrid offensively. Throughout this stretch, Harden maintained and often exceeded his sky-high usage rate, something to be expected from a team playing from behind.

Another factor that contributed to Houston’s offensive difficulties was the alarming uptick in turnovers over this period. Houston’s season-long turnover rate of 15% (already worst in the league) was exceeded in all but one of the Rockets’ seven losses. The Rockets were especially poor in this regard against Minnesota and New Orleans, games in which they posted turnover rates of 24% and 25% respectively. Some of this may be simply due to chance: apart from the Clippers and Celtics (1st and 6th in opponent turnover rate), none of Houston’s seven opponents force turnovers at an above-average rate.

In summary, a spate of road games, an uptick in the turnover rate, and James Harden’s offensive struggles all conspired to hand Houston seven consecutive losses and bring the Rockets down to a more pedestrian 22-21, good for eighth in the West. The Rockets can take some comfort in the fact that four of these seven opponents were above-average defensive teams (Indiana, Boston, and L.A. are all in the top ten in defensive efficiency). Half-way through the season, Houston has settled into a spot familiar to Rockets followers over the past few seasons—a record at or around 0.500 and a spot near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race. That Houston has accomplished this with one of the league’s youngest rosters, however, is cause to celebrate and to reflect on just how much this team has exceeded expectations.

*All stats supporting this article are from Hoopdata.com

 

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Total comments: 29
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago who ever makes the schedule don't like the rockets, but it is what it is. whatever don't kill you will make you stronger right? our recent play has been affected by the schedule some, but our style of play has hurt us more. we have no half court game. teams are slowing down the game on us and making us play half court. this (IMO) falls on mc hale. he is not using the talent he has available to solve this problem. I expected to see d-mo and or t jones by now in more than garbage time and I have not. there are games where mc hale still looks like he doesn't have a clue to me. he is not the coach to lead us to the promise land. most gave him a free pass last year and are ready to give him one this year.....I am not ......he needs to go.........where? I don't care...just away.
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago The Spurs have 17 back-2-backs.
    The Spurs also have two sets of 4 games in 5 nights,however the Rocket pair are separated by just 2 off days,while the Spurs pair are separated by a month.
    Like the Rockets none of the Spur's back-2-backs are both at home.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Alituro, on 24 January 2013 - 15:20 PM said:


    Your Point?, and how so, if Worrell is right (I haven't checked him) and we face 23 sets of B2Bs, that's 46 games and 46>.5(82) and 23>.25(82)... Regardless of the maths, it is quite a lot. Would love to throw in a boo or two towards Stern myself.


    As a general rule, you should never accept anything Worrell says on air without checking separately. When he's commentating he doesn't tend to pay much attention to whether or not what he says is actually true. At least a couple of times a game I hear him say something which is factually incorrect (and Drexler is just as bad if not worse). You can't count on Bullard to call him out on it very often, unfortunately. In this instance, he was way off on the number of B2Bs the Mavericks have.

    Personally I don't think we have a right to complain about the schedule. Every team gets tough patches, that's just the way it goes. Has everyone forgotten the home-heavy early season schedule with the huge homestands and short road trips? Because I thought the schedule-maker was being very generous to the Rockets in that section.

    ST
  • blakecouey says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 24 January 2013 - 18:26 PM said:


    SAS has had several b2b2b. While Houston's schedule has been brutal, they're not the only ones.

    I don't believe any teams have any b2b2b stretches this year.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago Did you guys see what happens when Lin runs the point and gets significnat PT? Also Harden needs to cut down his Turnovers. But the biggest surprise in this game is Patterson. I hope it's not a fluke and he keeps it up.
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago We all know that Lin should be the primary ballhandler, but I think that with Lin struggling to gain confidence and these losing streak in which we trailed by at least 10 in every single game, subconciously, they were all looking for Harden to save the rest and that didn't work. I don't think that recurring to Harden all the time isn't 100% by design really
  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago I agree with you DD, during the winning streak there was a 60/40 in offensive initiation by lin and harden in favor of Lin. It saves the legs of Harden who can be more explosive when he gets the ball instead of tiring out by always having to bring up the ball and avoid the double team.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago as scott brooks would say, "theyre not losing, theyre learning how to win..." well we're far from a young thunder team, but i hope that the experienced gained is something to build on.
  • DaDakota says 1 YEAR ago Look too much Harden, the problem is in sharing the ball, Harden is dominating it far too much, the team needs him to step back and play within the confines of the team game, and not as a hero.

    Right now, he is not good enough to be Kobe......he needs to be a scorer, the primary one, but not the primary ball handler.

    Live and die with Lin....and Beverly.

    DD
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 24 January 2013 - 18:26 PM said:


    SAS has had several b2b2b. While Houston's schedule has been brutal, they're not the only ones.


    B2B2B this season?? I know there were plenty in the shortened year last season.
  • datruth says 1 YEAR ago Mchale and Sampson is the problem. Morris had a good game against the Bobcats, but last night his minutes was limited. Why would Mchale do that? Harden really had eight turnovers counting the 24 second clock violations. Why is he handling the ball? He leads the world in turnovers. This team was winning when he allowed Lin to handle the point. Why change that? Tony Douglass was giving us good time off the bench. Why would you change that? The leader sets the pace in whatever you do. Mchale is constantly up and down with this team.
  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 24 January 2013 - 18:26 PM said:


    SAS has had several b2b2b. While Houston's schedule has been brutal, they're not the only ones.


    Agreed. SAS is the only team that has played more games than the Rox. Their B2B schedule to date has been just as bad, but the Rox have more said dates in the future, with little or no recovery time.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago SAS has had several b2b2b. While Houston's schedule has been brutal, they're not the only ones.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    Alituro, on 24 January 2013 - 15:20 PM said:


    Your Point?, and how so, if Worrell is right (I haven't checked him) and we face 23 sets of B2Bs, that's 46 games and 46>.5(82) and 23>.25(82)... Regardless of the maths, it is quite a lot. Would love to throw in a boo or two towards Stern myself.


    my bad, bro.....you're correct.
  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago

    Stephen, on 24 January 2013 - 17:27 PM said:


    The schedule is even more brutal than just the raw number of back-2-backs.
    Not a single one of the back-2-backs has the Rockets playing both games at home.
    In 10 of the 23 sets,BOTH games are on the road.
    The Rockets just finished a stretch of 4 games in 5 nights,two days off,then ANOTHER 4 games in 5 nights,with 6 of the 8 games being road games.
    Overall,the Rockets have played 10 games in a 16 day stretch,all in back-2-back sets,w/8 being on the road.
    For the rest of Jan the Rockets have 4 games in 6 days,w3 on the road.
    If they can stagger out of Jan still within a couple of games of the 8th seed,I'd consider it nearly a miracle.


    Completlely agree here. This month has been almost sadistic for the Rox. One thing I noticed was that many of the schedules I looked at had 8-10 of the B2B games before 2013 started, and the pace slacked off afterwards. You know, like they knew the players might get tired! The Rox have no such luxury - 8 prior to 2013, and 13 after. Who thought this was a necessary thing? Why do B2B's even exist?

    Maybe Stern is retiring to run a BDSM clinic? Disturbing thought...
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago The schedule is even more brutal than just the raw number of back-2-backs.
    Not a single one of the back-2-backs has the Rockets playing both games at home.
    In 10 of the 23 sets,BOTH games are on the road.
    The Rockets just finished a stretch of 4 games in 5 nights,two days off,then ANOTHER 4 games in 5 nights,with 6 of the 8 games being road games.
    Overall,the Rockets have played 10 games in a 16 day stretch,all in back-2-back sets,w/8 being on the road.
    For the rest of Jan the Rockets have 4 games in 6 days,w3 on the road.
    If they can stagger out of Jan still within a couple of games of the 8th seed,I'd consider it nearly a miracle.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    Freebird, on 24 January 2013 - 15:23 PM said:


    I think we're on schedule - borderline playoff team with one super duper young player. One more move, and we could possibly get into the top 4. Just not this season.


    I second that. The Rockets are on schedule at the very least and maybe ahead of schedule.
  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 24 January 2013 - 15:33 PM said:


    Why did you ignore the Spurs schedule which has been much more brutal.


    OK, San Antonio - 17.

    Changes nothing. I haven't looked at everyone's schedule, and honestly, I forgot about SA.
  • DaDakota says 1 YEAR ago McHale sucks - end of story.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    Freebird, on 24 January 2013 - 15:23 PM said:


    Looking at the schedule, here are my counts:
    Houston - 21
    Dallas - 16
    OKC - 15
    Lakers - 16
    Memphis - 17
    New Orleans - 17
    MIami - 16

    Just as a random sample, standard deviation of +/-1 (for me being dumb). I tried to look at a smatter of good teams and bad teams, to see if a pattern emerges. Thankfully, no CIA ties here, cause I saw nothing that resembled a pattern. You know, other than the Rox having 4+ more B2B games than everyone else seems to.

    As for the team, I still think we're trying to find what works. Everyone's adjusting - even McHale. Much as I hate to say it, Lin is coming along, but they could be looking to upgrade at the 1. And jumping back and forth between MM and PP at the 4 seems more like a showcase than real minutes. With the deadline coming up, I think they want to see what they have, and what they could improve on.

    I think we're on schedule - borderline playoff team with one super duper young player. One more move, and we could possibly get into the top 4. Just not this season.


    Why did you ignore the Spurs schedule which has been much more brutal.
  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago Looking at the schedule, here are my counts:
    Houston - 21
    Dallas - 16
    OKC - 15
    Lakers - 16
    Memphis - 17
    New Orleans - 17
    MIami - 16

    Just as a random sample, standard deviation of +/-1 (for me being dumb). I tried to look at a smatter of good teams and bad teams, to see if a pattern emerges. Thankfully, no CIA ties here, cause I saw nothing that resembled a pattern. You know, other than the Rox having 4+ more B2B games than everyone else seems to.

    As for the team, I still think we're trying to find what works. Everyone's adjusting - even McHale. Much as I hate to say it, Lin is coming along, but they could be looking to upgrade at the 1. And jumping back and forth between MM and PP at the 4 seems more like a showcase than real minutes. With the deadline coming up, I think they want to see what they have, and what they could improve on.

    I think we're on schedule - borderline playoff team with one super duper young player. One more move, and we could possibly get into the top 4. Just not this season.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    tombrokeoff, on 24 January 2013 - 05:20 AM said:


    Sounds about right for the Rockets (being on high end yet again) in terms of B2Bs but your %s are a bit off in terms of the season.


    Your Point?, and how so, if Worrell is right (I haven't checked him) and we face 23 sets of B2Bs, that's 46 games and 46>.5(82) and 23>.25(82)... Regardless of the maths, it is quite a lot. Would love to throw in a boo or two towards Stern myself.
  • PKM says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 24 January 2013 - 14:09 PM said:


    Obviously this is a young team, but then why is Lin getting limited minutes? You're paying the guy 25 mil, you might as well play him. It's not like he's regressing. He's getting better as the season goes along. His shot still isn't falling at a great clip, but other than that, he's doing fine. He's cut down on his turnovers quite a bit. (Harden hasn't. He leads the entire NBA in turnovers.) I agree with you, that this team can't compete for a chip this year and so why not play Lin/Harden/Parsons/Asik/random PF a ton of minutes together to get them flowing well so when next season rolls around they are even better? Mchale's rotations make no sense.

    Because just because you're young doesn't mean that you just get playing time. That's the Sacramento model of team building.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago Obviously this is a young team, but then why is Lin getting limited minutes? You're paying the guy 25 mil, you might as well play him. It's not like he's regressing. He's getting better as the season goes along. His shot still isn't falling at a great clip, but other than that, he's doing fine. He's cut down on his turnovers quite a bit. (Harden hasn't. He leads the entire NBA in turnovers.) I agree with you, that this team can't compete for a chip this year and so why not play Lin/Harden/Parsons/Asik/random PF a ton of minutes together to get them flowing well so when next season rolls around they are even better? Mchale's rotations make no sense.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago As much as fans might not want to hear it I must continue beating the drum. This is a young team that is exceeding expectations and I am excited about this team now and for the future. Young teams especially will be streaky so brace yourselves for the ride.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago Sounds about right for the Rockets (being on high end yet again) in terms of B2Bs but your %s are a bit off in terms of the season.
  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago Just Commissioner's Stern's way of showing how much he loves the Rockets!!!!!!!!! What a shame he's retiring soon, can't come soon enough if you ask me. I don't expect Stern will be greeted very well when he arrives for the All-Star game next month. Just like how loud the boos were when Stern handed the NBA Championship trophies to our team as we won the deciding game both times here in Houston. For some unknown reason, Stern and the Rockets organization and fan base have never seen eye to eye.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Yeah, don't want to sound like sour grapes, but seems to be a bit unfair.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago What baffles me about this season and maybe someone can shed some light on, is that I heard Worrell mention in one of the broadcasts that the Rockets have 23 sets of back-to-backs (most in the league) on their schedule, compared to 9 sets that the Mavericks face this season. Why such a huge discrepancy? That's over 1/4 of our games that come on the second night, and over 1/2 of our games are consumed by the pairs. Not only are our guys tired after playing a game the night before, but on the night before, they don't play with full energy in hopes of preserving themselves for the second game. Many of these we faced on this past stretch, the pairs were in two different cities, so there was travel involved too. Whoever draws up these schedules needs to be investigated... seriously, WTF?