The Houston Rockets Have Nearly Perfected Basketball


The Houston Rockets beat the new-look Boogie & Brow New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, 129-99. As usual the Rockets won using a barrage of 3-point shooting and close-range shots and almost nothing in between. Seriously. They took the lay-up or 3-point mentality that is Moreyball as close to the extreme as possible. Look at this shot chart.

The Rockets ended up making 20 of 51 3-pointers. They were 25 of 40* on 2’s. While the chart looks crazy, neither of those are records or even season-highs for Houston. They set the record for 3’s made (24 – since tied by Denver) and attempted (61) in a game earlier this season. Houston leads the league, averaging 40 3-point attempts a night. The thing is, the Rockets have to shoot more 3’s because they’re less effective from distance than the Warriors and Cavs who are tied for 2nd in the league at 39%.

Only the Warriors outscored the Rockets on Thursday, putting up 123 while making 13 of 26 3’s against the Clippers. The next highest score belonged to the Cavaliers who made 15 of 38 3’s in a win over the Kincks. The Warriors, Rockets and Cavaliers have 3 of the 4 best records in the NBA. The other team in the top 4, the Spurs, lead the league in 3-point percentage (40%). Compare that to Tim Duncan’s first championship season in ’98-’99. The Spurs were 25th in attempts (10.4) and 18th in percentage (.330). Amazingly, the Spurs are just 27th in attempts this season. I guess they chose to work smarter rather than harder?

As usual, the Spurs remain an outlier. They’ve won 5 titles and never missed the playoffs since Gregg Popovich took over in 1997. So just ignore them. They don’t count. Look instead at the Rockets as the future of basketball.

Is this a good thing? I say yes. Common sense says that shooting all these 3-pointers is the result of dribbling, passing and, obviously, shooting. Those are the first three things you learn when you play basketball. The pillars of the triple-threat position. You drive to an open spot to take a three or kick the ball to an open teammate. That teammate shoots or passes to another teammate who shoots or passes to another teammate who – this is the most basic stuff and its being done at the highest levels.

James Harden had 14 assists last night and leads the league with 11.3 a night. The Rockets are second in the NBA in assists. (Warriors are 1st. Spurs 7th.) This is just basketball at its most simple and perfect. Dribble. Pass. Shoot.

*That one mid-range miss belonged to new acquisition Lou Williams. I know what you’re thinking – this guy just doesn’t get what the Rockets are doing! Except he scored 27 points in 25 minutes, making 7 of 11 3’s.