Houston beats Dallas again with defense

Houston squeaks out a close victory against Dallas. When the two teams played 2 nights ago in Dallas, the Rockets played elite on the offensive side of the ball, and played above average on the defensive side in order to get the blowout victory that game. In todays game, the offense really fell off in the second half. They scored 63 points in the first half, but only 30 points in the 2nd. But they were able to stay in the game by actually locking down the Mavs. Who would have thought that defense would have been the prime reason we won a game this early in the season?

At the half they led by 10 points. In the 3rd quarter Houston missed their first 8 FGs and Wes Matthews came alive with 10 points in the 3rd quarter alone, but they played well enough against the other Mavs and managed to string together some points to extend the lead back out to 10 by the time the quarter ended. Both teams would finish the quarter with 17 points each.

The fourth quarter rolled around, and the offense for Houston still wasn’t looking that great. Harden checked back into the game with a little over 8 minutes in the game. Now, this might be where in other games I would say some cliche line about how we won because we have Harden and they don’t. He did have 7 points in the quarter, but there were also numerous misses and turnovers in the 4th as well. So he wasn’t as effective as he usually was (give credit to Wes Matthews with the defense), but he made enough plays and the defense made enough plays.

The irony of the end of the game was, as much as the game had become about who could play better defense. We let them tie the game with a Wes Matthews 3 with 4 seconds remaining, and then the offense was able to draw up a beutiful play to get Harden a free path to the basket and draw a foul and effectively win the game at the free throw line.

The Play

Now, I just mentioned how Mike D’Antoni drew up an awesome play that won the game. Technically he drew it up in the 1st half, because it’s exactly how the first half ended as well. And I feel like because I’ve been on a run multiple blog posts in a row talking about how good D’Antoni is at Xs and Os, I might as well talk about what effectively was the game winning play.

In both instances where this play happened, there were only a few seconds left on the clock, and the ball was to be inbounded at mid court. Last year we would’ve just ran some kind of screen to just get someone the ball to take a 3 point shot at the buzzer. But this year the play was a little unusual. Harden started off behind the half court line. Which allowed him to get a running start toward the basket before hitting a screen from Nene that was timed perfectly. Just as his man is getting screened off, Ariza passes him the ball, and he has a free lane to the basket. A defender (in both cases) was able to switch and run beside him, but that’s not good enough to stop James Harden from scoring.

I hesitate to say that this play is awesome, because it seems telegraphed. Why else would Harden be way out there beyond mid court? There is literally no other thing he could do in this play other than get a running start at the basket and get a screen. But hey, it worked. And they were able to get points both times with under 5 seconds left on the clock. That’s actually kind of difficult to do and it was the difference between the win and the loss here.

Other notes

-Dirk did not play today. This time Seth Curry started. This was different from 2 nights ago when JJ Barea started. I have a feeling they didn’t want to see him guard Ariza again. And you could say the plan worked because he had an 18 point game.

-Harden had a solid but innefficient game. 28 points on 8-23 shooting. 7 assists and 8 turnovers. He could do better, but still was definitely our best player this game. Gorden added 14 points, and Anderson had his best game this year shooting 6-10 from the field for 14 points and 12 rebounds.

-We could go on and on listing stat after stat on how good the team was offensively in the 1st half compared to the 2nd. I already mentioned 63 in the 1st half compared to only 30 in the second. The craziest one might be we shot 8-16 from 3 in the 1st half, but only 3-15 in the 2nd. But, personally not too worried. The guys that were cold from behind the 3 point line were guys that usually average a higher percentage. We aren’t losing because guys like Brewer and KJ McDaniels are attempting a combined 7-10 3s between the two of them. Together they only attempted 3.

-Speaking of the bench and 3 point shooting Dekker made his first 3 pointers as a Rocket in the regular season. In fact, he made all 3 of his 3 point attempts. And both Dekkar and Brewer led the team in +/-. They did a lot of damage in the at the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd quarter when Harden was on the bench to help build that lead in the first place.

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