The Insider: The Houston Rockets Defeat the Minnesota Timeberwolves
Eleven thoughts for eleven James Harden assists in a Houston Rockets 107-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- DRE (or Daily RAPM estimate) is a box score +/- measure that determines an estimate of points contributed above average in a game. The metric allowed for the addition and subtraction of simple linear weights. The calculation is as follows: PTS + .2(Total Rebounds) + 1.7(Steals) + .535(Blocks) + .5(Assists) – .9(Field-goal Attempts) – .35(Free-throw Attempts) – 1.4(Turnovers) – .136(Minutes). The metric produces an estimate of net points contributed per 100 possessions and is subtracted out of the league-average performance. Now why am I giving this huge statistical explanation? Well, Clint Capela has been in the starting lineup for most of the season. He’s had staggered minutes with the second-unit as the secondary Center. As a PF alongside Dwight Howard (has DRE/36 of 2.8), Clint Capela has a DRE/36 of .9. As a Center in Rockets lineups, Clint Capela has a DRE/36 of 3.5. In comparison, at Center, Andrew Bogut has a DRE/36 of 2.8, DeAndre Jordan 4.0, Rudy Gobert 1.5, etc. The eye test confirms this statistic. As the ‘5’ in lineups, Capela gives the Rockets the versatility of switching, showing, or hedging hard on PnR defense. Offensively, he can either set the screen or stay in position inside with an athletic or stretch power-forward setting the screen for Ty Lawson or Jason Terry. Coach Bickerstaff will continue to start Clint Capela alongside Dwight Howard But in the future, Clint Capela’s best position is his natural position – an above-average starting center with the potential to be dominant defensively.
- “We had too many turnovers,” Minnesota Coach Sam Mitchell said of his team’s TWENTY turnovers. “Every time we turned the ball over, they got a layup or a dunk. Where those turnovers came from, I don’t know. There were things that we just don’t normally do.” Well, Coach Mitchell, I know where those turnovers came from. The Rockets defense employed their opportunistic scheme. A young team is prone to making the initial pass without going through progressions. The Rockets first nature defensively is to gamble for the steal. Thus, against a very young team, the Rockets forced 11 steals and TWENTY total turnovers. Through 40 games played this season, the Houston Rockets average 10 steals per game – tops in the NBA.
- “We’re playing for each other. That’s the most important thing,” James Harden said. “So if a guy messes up, a guys got his back. Everything isn’t going to be perfect all the time, and that’s what we’re starting to realize and we’re just helping each other out.” If you’re a Rockets fan, this is a positive sign that the team is turning the corner. Earlier this season the team was playing for themselves, individualistic particularly on the offensive end. As the season has progressed, movement on offense has improved, isolations earlier in games have decreased, and everyone on offense is getting proper touches. Rockets who played 20+ minutes in last night’s game had at least 40 touches. Passing the ball, moving around the floor, and making the smart play.
- Ty Lawson played 22 minutes and had 5 TOTAL assists (3 assists, 1 secondary assist, 1 FT assist). He was the primary ball-handler when on the floor, bringing the ball up and initiating offense even when paired with James Harden in the backcourt. Defensively, Harden had a solid game. He was never on his heels, seldom seen during the early part of the season. When switched onto taller, stronger players, Lawson was aggressive and heightened his ball-pressure. From those I’ve talked to, Coach Bickerstaff wants to get Lawson more integrated into the offense. You can see improvement, you can see the difference from earlier in the season. Ty Lawson has gone from assimilating himself into this basketball team, to integrating himself as a legitimate secondary ball-handler for the Rockets offense.
- “Something you got to learn how to talk to guys, and it takes time and it takes years,” Dwight Howard speaking about Terrence Jones. “With TJ you just got to embrace him, and there’s time in the heat of the battle you want to picks somebody, with him, to get through to him is to just sit down with him and let him know how important he is to the success of the team. He’s been doing a good job so far.”
- “The talent is there with Terrence,” Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on the importance of Terrence Jones. “We need to get to a point where it’s there every night and we can depend on Terrence because he’s a big part of what we do. He’s a big part of our rotation up front. This is the type of performance that he had tonight and Tuesday that he’s capable of. We just need to string those performances together.”
- Something Coach Kevin McHale told me a few years ago always stuck with me: (paraphrasing) A player is who he is after his third or fourth year in the league. Terrence Jones, fourth year in the league, has played phenomenal basketball the past two games. He’s asserted himself, something that a player of his athleticism and size needs to do. A problem he’s had throughout his career, besides poor decision making on defense and lack of confidence, is his inability to consistently finish through contact. In the past two games, he’s taken a turn in the right direction; guiding his dominant hand towards the rim and aggressively attacking the defender. For example in Wednesday’s game vs. the Timberwolves, Terrence Jones was 4/5 on contested FG inside the paint. Not only has he played well offensively, but his defensive lapses have declined. He’s made poor, low-IQ decisions during the course of the season. Whether incorrectly switching on defense, rotating from the help-side, or recovering to his man off the pick-and-roll, Terrence Jones has corrected his mistakes the past few games. The Rockets can only hope that this continues, and maybe, like how Coach Kevin McHale said, we’re seeing the player Terrence Jones really is.
- James Harden shot 47% on step-back jumpers last season, a staple in his offensive arsenal that makes him a lethal assignment for perimeter defenders. This season, James Harden is shooting 46% on step-back jumpers. However late in the 4th quarter this season, James Harden is shooting only 31% on step-back jumpers. We’ll see if he continues to struggle from isolation possessions in the clutch.
- James Harden reached the 10,000 point mark in his 492nd Now with 10,005 points in his career, James Harden is the seventh player in the NBA since 1985 to have 10,000 points, 2,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists, 700 assists, and 200 blocks in less than 500 games. “It’s definitely a great individual achievement,” Harden said. “Credit to this organization for helping me get there. But that’s just the beginning, I’ve got a long way to go.”
- Coach Bickerstaff said after the game that he will continue to start Clint Capela alongside Dwight Howard. Although Terrence Jones started the second-half, Coach Bickerstaff likes how the Capela/Howard duo is playing on both ends and inserted TJones because of the match-up success against Minnesota.
- Corey Brewer has improved his stock over the last handful of games. In the past 15 games, Corey Brewer is shooting 40% from three and 47% in Rockets wins. He’s shooting exclusively from the corner and the Rockets are involving him offensively through curls and down screens. Defensively, his play has also improved. He’s getting more transition opportunities, and asserting himself in the strong-side lanes. With the Rockets improvement defensively of creating opportunistic turnovers, Brewer is able to push the tempo and score early in transition. He’s the catalyst behind the Rockets dominance in fast break points over the past few games.
Keep with espn975.com for all your Houston Rockets coverage, and follow @Rockets_Insider on Twitter for film-breakdowns, stats, analysis, news, and game updates. Also listen to the new Red Nation Hoops podcast. I discuss the Rockets winning streak, trade deadline, and more: https://soundcloud.com/rednationhoops/episode-10-win-streak-trade-talk-etc
My new role allows me to post breakdowns, film-studies, and other analytical essays on ESPN Houston (ESPN975.com). For those followers who have kept up with my writings over the years know that I have a certain structure. However, with ESPN Houston, I’ve decided to change up the composition and makeup of how I share my analysis. For the rest of the season, I’ll be posting ‘The Insider’. These posts will entail a n-number of thoughts regarding the past game, including a plethora of insight, film-study, and breakdowns. The n-number will come from a random stat such as three-point FGA, FGA (overall), defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, etc.
The first edition of ‘The Insider’ was released after last Monday’s game win versus the Utah Jazz, therefore this is the fifth edition. Hope you’ll enjoy this new structure.