The Rockets’ three-point-heaving, star-studded offensive circus made their lone cease of the season in Brooklyn on Tuesday night time for a matchup with the Nets at Barclays Middle.
The spectacle didn’t disappoint.
MVP candidate James Harden led all scorers with 36 factors and Chris Paul added 25 because the Rockets topped the Nets, 123-113.
Beneath the tutelage of second-year coach Mike D’Antonio and with the addition of Paul, who joined Houston in a blockbuster offseason commerce, the Rockets have emerged as maybe essentially the most respectable challenger to the defending-champion Warriors this season.
And so they’ve carried out so by capturing. And capturing. And capturing some extra.
For the second straight season, the Rockets (39-13, 2nd place within the West) are unleashing three-pointers at a historic tempo, a byproduct of D’Antoni’s revolutionary system and the roster-building of normal supervisor Daryl Morey. They tried 33 in Tuesday night time’s win, effectively beneath their season common of 43 however nonetheless above the league common.
Final 12 months, earlier than falling to the Spurs within the second spherical of the playoffs, the Rockets tried an NBA-record three,306 threes. After Tuesday night time, they’ve already tried 2,228 threes — 363 greater than the following staff, the Nets (19-36), who shot 16 of 35 from downtown Tuesday — and are on tempo to shatter their very own three-point document by greater than 200 makes an attempt.
The Rockets have six gamers within the high 20 within the league in three-point makes an attempt per recreation, together with Harden, who leads the league at 10.6 makes an attempt per recreation and shot four of 10 in Tuesday’s win.
Sixth man Eric Gordon (13 factors) is third at 9.three makes an attempt per recreation. Paul is 17th within the league at 6.eight three-pint makes an attempt per recreation, by far the very best common of his profession. Earlier than this 12 months, Paul, who shot four of eight from three Tuesday — had by no means averaged greater than 5.zero makes an attempt per recreation in a season.
“When unsure,” D’Antonio mentioned earlier than the sport, “we’re capturing it.”
Behind their three-point barrage, the Rockets have established themselves as the highest offense within the league. Getting into Tuesday night time, they have been averaging extra factors per 100 possessions than the Warriors, who led the NBA in the identical class final season.
For D’Antoni, the previous Knicks head coach, that is nothing new — merely the following step in a pure development because the league has accepted, tailored to and ultimately put in his offensive thought course of.
D’Antoni, after all, rose to NBA prominence as the pinnacle coach of the Suns from 2003-08. With the assistance of two-time MVP-winner Steve Nash, D’Antoni led Phoenix to 60-win seasons in 2004-05 and 2006-07. His groups by no means superior to the Finals, although, main many on the time to query whether or not his high-paced spacing scheme might translate to a championship.
Nicely, the Warriors proved the system might work after they received their first title with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in 2014-15. After the championship, Golden State assistant coach Alvin Gentry mentioned, “Inform Mike D’Antoni he’s vindicated!”
D’Antoni has now taken the method to an excessive. For comparability, the 2004-05 Suns tried 2,026 threes. The Rockets had already surpassed that this season in 51 video games.
“The massive ‘however’ within the Phoenix groups was they didn’t suppose you possibly can win with the fashion that everyone’s taking part in proper now,” D’Antoni mentioned. “They’d go, ‘Yeah, however they’ll decelerate within the playoffs’ and, ‘They will’t shoot threes” and, ‘They’re capturing too many.’ You don’t hear that anymore. So our protection wanted to get higher in Phoenix, however…it wasn’t terrible.
“We received 62 video games (in 2004-05). We had the most effective document on the highway. And we did with out protection? I don’t know the way that even occurs. However that was the ‘however.’ So I feel that if we return to these days, there’d be no ‘buts.’”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson served as an assistant on D’Antoni’s Knicks workers from 2008-2012 and has utilized related rules in Brooklyn, by way of tempo and three-point capturing.
The Nets have tried 1,865 threes.
“Mike’s at all times forward of the curve,” Atkinson mentioned earlier than the sport, citing his “good pal” unprovoked. “He was forward of the three-point revolution and the spacing. It’s actually wonderful, at all times counterculture. What’s the following factor? He’s nonetheless forward of it, and now he’s bought the threes happening, agree with it or disagree. He will get numerous criticism for it. But it surely appears to be like prefer it’s turning out all proper for him.”
D’Antoni was requested if he’s extra assured in his title probabilities this 12 months than he was in years previous, significantly these Phoenix groups.
He shook his head.
“We might have received it again then,” D’Antoni mentioned. “We are able to win it now.”