After starting off 3-0, the new-look Houston Rockets looked to be on the path to Western Conference championship contention that many foresaw after their summer acquisition of Dwight Howard.
But since then, the team has struggled – notably on the defensive end (Oh, hey James Harden) – and has fallen to 4-3 following last night’s loss to Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers. Once again, defense was the issue as they gave up 107 points in the loss.
Offensively, things are fine as the team currently sports a 105 offensive efficiency rating, thanks in large part to James Harden. Fresh off two straight 30+ point performances, Harden struggled last night against the Clips, finishing with only 12 points on 4-15 shooting. (Despite this he still finds himself 4th among all scorers, with a 24.7 per game average.) He also added 5 rebounds and 5 assists, including the Pass of the Night to Dwight Howard.
Early in the 1st quarter, the Rockets controlled a rebound and quickly got the ball to Harden to push it up the floor. Even with all the Clippers back on defense, Harden still hurried the ball into the frontcourt, creating a secondary break situation. With all the Clippers back behind the ball, there wasn’t a numbers advantage for the Rockets, but rather the advantage was gained from forcing the action. The Clippers might have been physically back on defense, but they weren’t set and organized, which Harden realized.
After he gets a screen from Howard, Harden takes a dribble to his right while Howard rolls down the lane, which is completely empty. Harden slips a perfect bounce pass through traffic, which gives Howard the ball with no defense in front of him, and leads to an easy dunk.
If you have any suggestions for a pass we should consider, contact me on Twitter (@jmaloney9) or by email at maloneyj(at)xavier.edu.