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Hitting the piñata one last time

I know the recap of last night’s game will be coming soon, but I want to inject a few thoughts before that happens. Conveniently, the Rockets just played the Spurs. Referencing the long essay I just wrote, the Spurs are pretty much the opposite of the Rockets in terms of being a complete sandwich versus just a bunch of ingredients. Think about these stats from last night’s game.

Stat Spurs Rockets
Passes made 342 286
Distance traveled on offense (miles) 10.05 7.66
Distance traveled on defense (miles) 6.84 8.38

The difference in movement is particularly noteworthy. The Spurs ran almost 3.5 fewer miles on defense than they did on offense. It’s not hard to identify the reason–the Rockets don’t move very much on offense, and thus their defenders aren’t compelled to move. In fact, the Rockets moved more when defending the Spurs than they did when trying to score themselves. For years we’ve said that the biggest advantage the Rockets have over the Spurs is youth and athleticism. None of that matters when athletic young players are standing still.

About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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The state of the league, and hitting the James Harden piñata