In this installment of Five Questions, we asked Darren Yuvan from SB Nation’s Houston Rockets blog, The Dream Shake, to answer some questions about the Rockets’ season and tonight’s game between Houston and Memphis. We were nicer to each other than Mario Chalmers and James Harden, I promise.
1. With Chris Paul missing time so early in the season, are you concerned about him trying to get into a rhythm on a mismatched timetable with the rest of the team?
Of course there's going to be an adjustment period once Paul returns. It's only natural, especially if CP3 ends up missing an entire month. But the good news is that a lot of these guys spent the summer playing together, so they're already familiar with each other's tendencies. And while nothing can quite match an actual NBA game in competitiveness, Paul, Harden and Ariza, in particular, got a lot of run in together this summer, and the healthy team looked great together in preseason. I don't expect it will take too long to get back to that after a short adjustment.
2. As of this writing, 50.8% of the Houston Rockets shots are coming from beyond-the-arc, somehow even a higher percentage than a year ago. However, the shooting percentage on 3PA’s have been poor, 28th in the league. Are you happy with the sacrifice in percentage if you know you’re making a larger number of 3-point shots?
I don't expect that sacrifice in percentage to last very long to be honest. It's important to note that a few traditionally solid three-point shooters have started the season off a little cold. Trevor Ariza is shooting just 3-19. He's a career 35 percent shooter from deep. Eric Gordon is 15-56 from deep. He's a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc. I fully expect Gordon to get hot soon, and Ariza, once he returns from injury, to do the same. Just getting those two usually good three-point shooters back the their norm will do wonders for the team efficiency from three. As an example, Gordon was 23-47 from three during the preseason. Ariza was 17-30. It's only a matter of time before they get hot again.
3. Regarding Mike D’Antoni’s system, have you noticed any new wrinkles this year with the play-calling or motions?
The Rockets offense we've seen thus far has mostly resembled the same one from last year, but that's because the Rockets are dealing with so many injuries. Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza and Nene are down right now, and Paul, in particular, has only played one game. That's left James Harden to run as the sole point-Beard, much as he did last season, and a lot of it is the same offense. We have seen some more work for Clint Capela, who's off to a fantastic start this year, and his shot attempts have also jumped.
But I suspect that D'Antoni is saving many of his new wrinkles for when the team, especially Chris Paul, returns from injury. Even then, we'll mostly see expanded versions of many things the Rockets run now, especially within the pick and roll, a D'Antoni favorite.
4. In the last match-up this past Monday, the Rockets offense faltered in the 4th quarter, only scoring 14 points in the loss. What do you suggest or hope the Rockets do differently strategically or otherwise in crunch time this time around?
For starters, I'd like to see them go to Capela more when they need an easy bucket. He's shooting 73 percent from the field so far this season, and he was 7-9 the last time these two teams met. He had just 2 shots in the fourth quarter, however. I'd like to see a few more chances for Clint to dunk one home. Second, I'd like to see them get to the bucket more. When the threes aren't falling, it's imperative to try and create those three-point opportunities elsewhere. The Rockets were 2-12 from three in the fourth quarter, but shot only 7 two-points shots.
Consequently, they shot just 3 foul shots in the fourth. Get to the rim, get the ball to Clint, get an easy bucket and get some freebies. It's an easy formula on paper. The Rockets don't always execute it though.
5. With two games so close together, both being played in a 5-day span, do you expect to see a drastic difference in the type of game the Rockets play? Or do they attack with the same game plan?
The Rockets are going to attack with mostly the same game plan. They're a three-point shooting team, and they're going to keep shooting them until they start falling at a more consistent clip. That being said, if the threes aren't falling, I'll want to see more of what I mentioned in questions 4 -- more Capela, more getting to the rim. And though James Harden is being officiated much differently this season -- almost to a fault, the ref's have been a little too aggressive with their enforcement of the Harden Rule and are missing some obvious ones -- but he's also got to pay that no mind and continue attacking the bucket.
But at the end of the day, everything starts and ends for the Rockets with their three-point shot. When it's falling, they're extremely difficult to beat.