Rocket Science

How the Rockets small-ball rotation keeps working

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Even though the Rockets got out rebounded this past weekend by the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, they still came out victorious. With the small-ball rotation, the Rockets are 8-2 against the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Rockets are suffering on the rebounding side, but this offense has allowed them to score more points. They are much faster in transition because of Robert Covington and Jeff Green. This team can spread the floor more because of the space. This allows their shooters to get more open. With having Russell Westbrook on the Rockets, he can create plays for wide open shooters. As defensive zones collapse on Westbrook, he is able to get the ball out to James Harden, Ben McLemore, and PJ Tucker.

Before the All-Star break, the Rockets were averaging 118.2 points per game and their winning percentage was .630%. After the break, including bubble play, the Rockets are averaging 121 points per game and winning percentage is now .667% because of the small man rotation.

The Rockets are ranked number one in offensive scoring in the NBA. They put up 42 points in the first quarter against the Mavericks last Friday. The Rockets scored a total of 153 points to beat the Mavericks in overtime. They outscored the second highest team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, to get win on Sunday night. The Rockets went on a 14-6 run with three minutes left in the game. Their best weapon as a team, is to outscore the opposing opponent.

With the Rockets small-ball rotation, they are able wear defenses down. Harden and Westbrook are always playing Mike D'Antoni's system at a high tempo. The Rockets are ranked third in transition offense this season. This allows them win close games because the other team is tired.

Daryl Morey about a week ago cracked a joke on the Denver Nuggets big man starting five.

Morey even still feels confident about the smallball rotation. He made a great statement on July 15, 2020. He believes it is helping Westbrook a lot.

"Obviously, we're playing small but people forget that unlocked Russell a lot on the offensive end and James on the offensive end. But it also unlocked us on the defensive end. Not many guards average in their career multiple times over 10 rebounds a game," as Morey explained to Anthony Duckett of FanSided. "And the fact that Eric [Gordon] is thick and strong and James allows us to play this way. Everyone makes it sounds like it's a gimmick but really [it’s]the best way to play. And what I love about coach [D'Antoni] is that he recognizes that and is able to optimize that."

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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