Stylistically, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are virtually equivalent teams. They mirror their ideal players, as James Harden and Luka Doncic characterize the closest replicas of a single an additional anywhere in the basketball earth. Protection is not a powerful issue, but details come with outstanding simplicity. On Friday, the Rockets outlasted the Mavs by a score of … hold out for it … 151-146 in overtime.
James Harden had forty nine details.
Russell Westbrook extra 31.
Do the math, and that is eighty combined details from Houston’s star duo. They also combined for twenty rebounds, sixteen assists, five blocks and four steals. They were, to set it mildly, sensational. And that’ll have to continue to be the case if Houston is going to make a operate in the playoffs. Probably not this sensational, but fairly darn sensational.
The Rockets are taking part in uphill with their tremendous-compact lineups. The Mavericks bought into the lane and to the rim with laughable simplicity on Friday. The Rockets gave up thirteen offensive rebounds and misplaced the all round rebound battle by a margin of fifteen. 2nd chances eliminate you in the playoffs. Battling persistently even bigger teams is going to wear Houston down, and they’re going to give up a great deal of details they can not give up 146 details, naturally, but they’re going to give up details. The strategy is to just score extra.
Which is why they traded Clint Capela and brought in Robert Covington, to place the flooring with five shooters and no massive person in the lane, leaving the rim broad open up for attack. That tactic was primarily devised for the profit of Westbrook, who can not shoot but continues to be a single of the most ruthless penetrators in NBA historical past. If he starts settling for threes and mid-selection pull-ups, ignore about it. On Friday, twelve of his thirteen buckets came in the paint, and eleven of them were layups. That is gold for the Rockets.
And that is what comes about when Harden is cooking, as he undoubtedly was on Friday, going 6 for 6 from the industry for 23 details in the to start with quarter en route to a 14-for-twenty evening that incorporated 21 cost-free throw makes an attempt, 18 of which he knocked down. Teams have to send out two or even a few defenders at Harden when he’s rolling like that, and that is when Westbrook can take more than. The two performs underneath illustrate how devastating Harden and Westbrook can be jointly when Harden gets doubled, gets to be a keen passer, and there is no massive person to prevent Westbrook at the rim.
Which is how Westbrook has been attacking given that the calendar turned to January, when he minimize his 3-issue makes an attempt to much less than a few per match. Above that ten-week span, Westbrook, like Friday night’s match, is averaging more than 31 details a match on much better than fifty two per cent taking pictures.
Harden is Houston’s ideal player, but I continue to imagine that Westbrook is its most important. With almost five months of rest, Harden is going to be fresher than he’s ever been in the postseason, and he’s going to score big. You can rely on that. The issue continues to be no matter whether Westbrook will keep on being disciplined with his shot collection and continue to punish teams for doubling Harden with relentless and effective rim attacks.
He did that on Friday. And the Rockets received. It truly is a great deal to check with for Harden and Westbrook to retain placing up these forms of figures, but that is the only way the Rockets can compete with the ideal teams. And in truth, there’s lots of proof they can retain this up.