The Golden State Warriors (30-41) will try to earn themselves a win in the last game of their Texas trip when they play against the Houston Rockets (37-34) Wednesday night. The Warriors are in the midst of a five game losing streak that they hope will come to an end; but the Rockets are far from being slouches.
On offense, Houston scores 105.5 points per game (third in the NBA) on 45.3% field goal shooting (21st in the NBA). The Rockets offense relies on a lot of motion and swinging the ball from side to side. Rarely does the ball just stick in the hands of one player. Instead, Houston prefers to have several players touch the ball and then get it to their big men either on the interior for post ups or at the high post to allow the wing players to cut to the basket where they can hit them with passes that lead them to the basket.
It’s part of the reason that Houston averages 23.4 assists per game on the season (fifth in the NBA). Also, they do a good job of getting early offense by getting out in transition and attacking the basket to get easy looks. Indeed, Houston scores 15.0 fast break points per game (eighth in the league).
Given their ability to pass the ball but also to get post up opportunities with Luis Scola, the Rockets are able to manufacture 43.0 points in the paint per game (eighth in the association). Granted, their 11.6 offensive rebounds per game helps them get second chance opportunities in the paint as well.
When these teams met last on December 20th, the Rockets dominated the interior as they scored 48 points in the paint against the Warriors defense. Houston also shot 34 free throws and snatched 17 offensive rebounds on their way to a 121-112 win at Oracle Arena.
The Rockets did a great job of owning the paint and scoring on the interior but also of connecting from distance as they shot 11-for-24 from 3-point range (the Warriors inability to defend the perimeter and the interior have become their defensive trademark this season).
On defense, the Rockets surrender 103.8 points per game (22nd in the NBA) on 46.7% field goal shooting (21st in the league). Houston struggles on defense quite simply because it is not a huge area of focus. For instance, their communication on off the ball screens is not always adequate and defending plays that involve a lot of movement tends to confuse them.
Also, teams like to put Scola into pick and rolls and anticipate when he comes out to trap to swing the ball and get inside the paint for a score. Once the Rockets are forced to rotate, they are typically a step a behind and their lack of shot blocker means that teams can pretty much score once they get to the rim since they do not have players to contest shots. On the season, Rick Adelman’s team yields 45.3 points in the paint (26th in the NBA) and 24.5 free throw attempts per game (18th in the league).
When Houston traveled to Golden State in late December, they gave up 44 points in the paint to the Dubs and allowed them to shoot 27 free throws. However, they did a good job of contesting perimeter shots and holding the Warriors to 7-for-22 (31.8%) from 3-point range.
For the Warriors to get the win this time around, they will have to be relentless in attacking the Rockets frontline players. Movement on offense and drives to the basket should allow the Dubs to get some scoring opportunities at the rim. Although they are a team that loves to shoot it from the deep, they might benefit from abandoning that strategy and taking it more to the rack.
Also, any type of defense resistance might go a long way towards helping the Warriors earn themselves a road victory.
Houston game notes: In three games against Golden State this season, Luis Scola is averaging 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 51.7% field goal shooting.
Golden State game notes: In two games against Houston this season, David Lee is averaging 18.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 63.6% field goal shooting.