Rockets Small Ball

Grace Higgins | February 10th, 2020

Since trading Clint Capela, the Houston Rockets are 1-2 with their new small ball experiment. The lineup now features Robert Covington and PJ Tucker as the biggest players in the starting lineup. The new style allows Russell Westbrook and James Harden to drive to the basket more.

In the first matchup after the trade deadline, the Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-111, behind 41 points from Westbrook. The Lakers were unable to consistently score and guard the five-out offensive set from the Rockets.

Since then, the experiment has gone downhill. The Phoenix Suns, who have 12 less wins than the Rockets, blew the Rockets out of the arena, winning 127-91. Kelly Oubre, who is emerging as a reliable piece for the Suns, scored 39 points, which including a handful of powerful dunks over the Rockets starters that were unable to rise to the rim and contest his attempts. Devin Booker, who was recently snubbed from the All-Star game, also added 33 points.

To follow the Suns beatdown, was the last second buzzer beater by the Utah Jazz. At times in that game, the Rockets seemed like geniuses. Rudy Gobert was lost on the perimeter and the Houston guards were taking full advantage of it. Harden had a 28-point triple-double and Westbrook scored 39 points. Side not: in the last two weeks, Westbrook has six performances with at least 30 points scored.

But coming off the bench for the Jazz was Jordan Clarkson, who led the Jazz in scoring with 30 points. Donovan Mitchell scored 24 and Mike Conley scored 20 to add to the Rockets defensive struggles against guards. In the end, it was Bojan Bogdanovic who hit the game winning shot, defeating the Rockets 114-113.

For this experiment to work, the Rockets need consistent scoring from Harden and Westbrook, as well as the surrounding pieces to make their three-pointers when given the opportunity. Wildly enough, because of the lack of scoring from their guards, the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are more at a disadvantage when playing the Rockets. So maybe Daryll Morey is a genius after all.

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