I know things have been dour around these parts lately, making another “Do you just how mediocre the Rockets are?” post seem like little more than shoving a giant sea salt crystal in a gaping wound, but sometimes information simply must be discussed, regardless of how said information will make everyone feel. And today, Henry Abbott of our grandfather blog True Hoop quoted some really damning information about the Rockets, emphasized in bold type for your viewing pleasure:
Over the last five years, in the final 24 seconds of games his team trailed by a point or two, or were tied, the Hornets have scored 102 points on 86 possessions (as of a few weeks ago). That’s an offensive rating of more than 118 points per 100 possession.
Remember that number. 118.
Now, consider that most of the NBA is below 85, and 27 teams are below 100. That’s a blowout. Only the Magic and Blazers are even close (at 107 and 104, respectively). The Cavaliers had LeBron James most of that period, and come in ninth, at 96. The Lakers are 14th at 83. The Celtics rank 20th at 78. Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns are way down at 28th on the list, while the Rockets are dead last, with an offensive rating just about half of the Hornets’.
It seems like the calling card of the mediocre basketball team’s fanbase, the lamentation of a team’s inability to get it done in the clutch. Such arguments can often obscure more glaring issues like abysmal transition defense or weak, ineffectual ball movement, but it seems that for the Houston Rockets of the 2006-11 seasons, absolutely no one can get it done in the clutch. And that fact is losing the Rockets games, over and over again. Over those five seasons, the Rockets have only once posted a negative point differential throughout a season and made the playoffs three times. Still, this team finds itself defined by its inability to score when the simple task is most needed; few things can frustrate fans as much as getting that close and almost knowing a loss is imminent.
This year, the Rockets have consistently found themselves on the “bubble” as favorites by stat gurus to make that extra push thanks to the team’s schedule and string of close losses, a record that usually normalizes as a season goes on, but I find that those well-wishers have not taken in a lot of Rockets basketball this season. Those who have know exactly why this team struggles in late-game situations: when the Rockets need to get an easy shot, there is no easy answer. In close games, defenses tend to be tricked less often by set plays based on misdirection, the Rocket’s offensive bread-and-butter, leaving a lot of talented role players damned with the proposition of creating a shot where there is not one. As has been seen by the Rockets’ record in such games (10-18 in games decided by seven or less), this has been a failed enterprise for Houston, a team once characterized by the tenacity that it cannot muster when absolutely needed.
It is important to note that there is a lot basketball played before a game’s last 24 seconds, much of which goes a lot further in differentiating which team will win on any given night. But for those last few seconds, sometimes it’s nice to think the team that once cheers for has a minute chance at pulling the game out. As Rockets fans have long felt and now know, the Rockets seem to enter these situations more certain to fail than any other NBA team.