Houston Rockets

3-pointers: Takeaways from the Rockets’ 118-95 win over the Lakers


Published 7:59 am, Monday, December 4, 2017

The Rockets needed some time to get going. They trailed by as much as six in the first half. They made just 3 of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter. They also barely seemed to notice a few bumps on the way.

The Rockets’ latest romp was built more on defense and the one-on-one abilities of James Harden, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul. But it always seemed to be a matter of time before they rolled again.


When they did, they had won an NBA record six-consecutive road games by at least 15 points. They stretched their win streak to a season-long seven games by an average of 21.6 points per game.  The Rockets took their 13th win in 14 games without a close game on the road since October. It just took a little time to get around to it.

1.  The Lakers’ defensive strategy seemed to invite James Harden to torch them, but it was sound. The Rockets have been taking 44.4 3-pointers per game. They had made 40 percent of their 3s in November. The Lakers had been the second-ranked defense against 3-pointers by switching on screens, keeping a defender on shooters, rather than trapping the ball and having to rotate an extra defender to cut off the rolling pick setter. That cut back on the Rockets’ 3-pointers, but after Eric Gordon repeatedly beat the Lakers off the dribble, Harden attacked those switches too, repeatedly getting to the rim until defenders backed off and he also knocked down 3s. That displayed more about Harden’s play than anything wrong with the Lakers’ strategy, but it might not be the last time Harden sees a team try it. The Warriors do all that switching with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green often switching on to Harden, options better-equipped for the job than Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr. But there were times the Lakers did all that could be done one-on-one and Harden beat that, too. While he is making 40.5 percent of his 3s, Harden does not give a defense many options or much of a chance. Russell Westbrook caught up to Harden for the league lead in assists per game. But Harden remained dominant, foiling another defense that seemed well-suited to defend what the Rockets do most, if not necessarily best.


2.  Mike D’Antoni said he has two magic numbers. Reach either and the Rockets should be close to unbeatable. The first is making 40 percent of their 3s. The Rockets take so many if they hit 40 percent of their attempts, they will outscore most teams, a formula that worked well in November when they made 40 percent for the month. When Chris Paul opened the fourth quarter with consecutive 3s, the Rockets were at 40 percent from the 3-point line. The Rockets missed some 3s down the stretch, but it was not that sort of game, anyway. They won with the other magic number. If the Rocket hold a team shy of 100 points, they expect to win as reliably as when they roll offensively. They held the Lakers to 38.1 percent shooting, keeping the Lakers from reach 100 points by taking care of the boards in the second half as they had not in the first half. The Rockets are 9-1 when holding teams shy of 100; 27-1 in the past two seasons. They increasingly take as much pride in their defense as they do in their high-scoring offense, with the second unit especially stingy. With Rockets reserves on the floor on Sunday, the Lakers made just 35.1 percent of their shots. While the Rockets had some rocky stretches offensively, the defense kept things under control until the shooting touch returned to take the Rockets to another rout.

3. When Clint Capela battled for an offensive rebound and made a turn to a baseline drive for a fourth-quarter bucket, the Rockets bench celebrated what was generally a meaningless bucket in terms of determining a winner. That was already certain, but the play seemed important for Capela. He had put all kinds of effort into getting that board, but the basket was significant because Capela had beaten the length that had given him trouble through much of the game. He had made just 1 of his first 5 attempts with a pair of turnovers before he broke through. He had passed up opportunities inside. But he also seemed to adjust, as if going against a Brook Lopez, a seven-footer with old school skills, was an experience he needed. Even with his struggles, Capela finished with 13 rebounds, three blocked shots and eight points in 22 ½ minutes. The NBA’s field goal percentage leader coming into the game, Capela made 3 of 7 shots to slip behind DeAndre Jordan. But it might have been worth a few misses, and a few on-court lectures from James Harden and Chris Paul, if Capela took another step forward.

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