The Warriors and Rockets have been on completely different paths since meeting in the Western Conference Finals last spring. Golden State went on to win the title and set a record for consecutive victories to start a season. Houston started so poorly that coach Kevin McHale was sent packing after 11 games, as we chronicled in our Offseason in Review.
The Rockets’ 6-10 start is even worse than it looks on the surface. They have played 11 of their first 16 games at home, where they are just 4-7, including losses to the Nuggets, Nets, a depleted Mavericks team and then nearly to the winless Sixers on Friday night. That two-point win over Philadelphia and an overtime decision over Portland on November 18th (where Corey Brewer hit a long three-pointer off one leg at the buzzer to force the extra session) are all that separate the Rockets from a nine-game losing streak. They are 0-3 in the Southwest Division, 4-6 in the Western Conference and have an average point differential of -6.5.
In the James Harden era, the Rockets have succeed by bombarding their opponents with three-point shots. This season, they’re still taking them, but they aren’t making them. Going into today’s games, Houston led all NBA teams with an average of 31.7 three-point attempts per game, but is 29th in three-point percentage at an abysmal 31%. Some of the biggest offenders behind the arc include Trevor Ariza at 31%, Ty Lawson at 25% and Brewer at 23%. Even Harden, who has built a reputation as a three-point marksman, is connecting on just 31%.
Things aren’t any better when their opponents have the ball, as the Rockets are 28th in the league in points allowed. They are also 29th in committing turnovers and 17th in rebounding, mostly because of Dwight Howard, who gets 12.7 per game.
There is some hope, however. Point guard Patrick Beverley returned from an ankle injury this week, and power forward Donatas Motiejunas, out since April with back problems, may be ready next month. Plus it’s only November, and despite their awful start, the Rockets are just two games out of a playoff spot.
That leads us to our question of the day: Will the Rockets be a playoff team this season?
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