This sequence is the sort that underscores my frustration with Trevor Ariza. Unless its a wide open ‘3’, he has trouble doing anything constructive with the ball. Due to his waning athleticism, he can’t finish over the top like most wings his size, and he doesn’t have the touch to finish with a floater, or the skill to use any misdirection to at least buy himself some space against the defender, the way you see done by guys like Eric Gordon or Lou Williams. What really hurts the offense though are the plays when he has to make something happen out on the perimeter against pressure defense. Since he can only dribble in straight lines, once he’s chased off the three-point line, he usually ends up in a crowd somewhere in the paint. I wasn’t able to find a clip of this since NBA.com doesn’t index-categorize ‘awkward near-turnovers’. Trevor is okay as a backup power forward, because the threat of the ‘3’ is enough to serve utility at that point, but when he’s at small forward, I find myself just longing for a true threat at that spot. You see just how ridiculous the Rockets look the second one of Lou Williams or Eric Gordon checks in, as a secondary ball-handler. With Patrick Beverley’s emergence, if they had that kind of threat (without the defensive liability) in the starting lineup, they could really go to the next level. Houston has bigger weaknesses, at the defensive end. But if they’re committed to playing small and outscoring people, they probably fundamentally won’t be able to address those. In that case, they’ll need to get even better offensively, in my opinion, and the Ariza spot is the obvious area for improvement.
So far in the series, Ariza is averaging 5 points per game on 33% shooting, and 0% on 3’s. On the year, he shot 40.8% overall and 34.3% on 3’s. That just won’t cut it.
There has been much debate over the prudence of James Harden’s game-ending shot in the past day. Watching it over, I’m more than convinced that the right play was made.
James already has Roberson on his heels after the jab-step, but more importantly, Adams is already back protecting the paint. If Harden drives the lane, he’s going to get clobbered, and I’ve been watching enough Rockets games to know that in that spot of the game, there won’t be a call. Harden shoots a higher percentage on mid-range jumpers than on 3’s, but I don’t know that he would have gotten a cleaner look on a mid-range at that point, the way he had Roberson draped all over him, with Westbrook leaking over to help. Above all else, James Harden led the league in assists this year, and is probably the smartest or second smartest (after Lebron) player currently in the league. Rest assured, he’s not just randomly coming down the court the way Russell Westbrook often does; he made every read in those seconds preceding the shot and took the best one. Not only can I live with it – it was the right shot.