Super Small Ball
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Mavericks in Houston 128-121
This may not go down as one of the more exciting Rockets' games this season, but it's certainly a noteworthy one considering how much the Rockets experimented with small ball units. For 48 minutes, the Rockets did not play a traditional center once and for the most part, found a lot of success in playing this way. For the first three quarters, the Rockets played well enough defensively to build a huge lead and throughout the game, the Rockets had solid scoring opportunity after opportunity due to the amount of space they had to work with.
Though fans may be upset that backup center Isaiah Hartenstein didn't play tonight, the players seemed to really enjoy playing without a big clogging the lane. Russell Westbrook and James Harden got clean looks for most of the game, but especially in the third quarter, where Houston scored 36 points on 14 of 26 shooting from the field and 4 of 11 from three-point range.
"It's real fun though," said Danuel House about the small units. "The ball has a lot of energy and the defensive intensity is super high, so I enjoy it."
An interesting development to watch is Thabo Sefolosha at the backup center. Sefolosha hasn't played significant minutes for most of the season, but Houston's finally found a role for him, as unconventional as it might be. Sefolosha played 14 minutes tonight and the Rockets didn't fair too bad in that time (+4).
Though Houston got killed on the boards with Kristaps Porzingis dominating the paint (35 points and 12 rebounds on 12 of 20 shooting from the field), Houston clearly made the calculated decision to forgo these disadvantages for the offensive advantages that they took advantage of tonight.
Star of the game: When James Harden is playing well, there are few weapons you'd like to have with a spaced floor like the Rockets had tonight. After being in a slump for much of January, Harden erupted for 35 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals on 10 for 25 shooting from the field, 6 for 14 shooting from three-point range, and 9 for 10 shooting from the free throw line. Harden made an effort to be aggressive early in the game, attempting seven field goals in the first quarter alone.
Honorable mention: It's becoming a regular occurance for Russell Westbrook to have games like this, but it's still impressive nonetheless. Westbrook had 32 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 13 of 28 shooting from the field and 6 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. More than anyone on the team, Westbrook benefits from a spread floor. Houston had plenty of driving lanes and he took advantage of them, in transition and in the half court.
Key moment: The Rockets had their best stretch in the game in the third quarter, where they outscored the Mavericks 36 to 25. Russell Westbrook and James Harden had some of their best stretches as a duo in this quarter and together combined for 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field. Westbrook really got going in transition, found teammates (4 assists), and got to the rim himself (12 points on 6 of 8 shooting).
Up next: The Rockets play the New Orleans Pelicans in Houston at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.