After a convincing 15 point victory on Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Kings will now have to face off against James Harden and a Houston Rockets team that was built for one purpose and one purpose only: to get buckets. Coached by former Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets play completely to the offensive strengths of their stars and will be another great test for a much improved Kings defensive scheme that on any given night can hold the league leading scorer well below his average, or give up 117 points to the Bucks. With a softening part of the schedule coming up in December, can the Kings take a game against a quality opponent and make yet another push towards the .500 mark? Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Friday, November 25th; 7:30pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140
Breaking Down the Rockets:
Offense: When Mike D’Antoni first got hired on by the Rockets, I was pretty much set on seeing the NBA equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster with D’Antoni reanimating the Seven Seconds or Less offense and trying to sew on some sort of modern NBA defense to help give it legs come playoff time. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has already tinkered with that sort of team in the past with their D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and with James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson they had the makings of offense, and Patrick Beverley and Clint Capela could be tacked on to form some sort of defensive identity, right? Well, fifteen games into the season, and we really haven’t seen the monsterous numbers from an offensive juggernaut, and while quite a few had Houston challenging for the top scoring team in the league, they haven’t quite lived up to that. Currently scoring 107.9 points per game, the Rockets sit at 7th in the league in scoring, and are surprisingly only 15th in the league in pace. They’re fifth in the league in field goal percentage at 46.3% per game and much of that is due to having the second highest field goal percentage from inside the arc, shooting twos at a 53.4% clip. However, Houston being coached by D’Antoni and managed by Morey, shoots the third least amount of two point shots a game, electing instead to shoot a average of over 36 threes a game, where they are by far and away the number one team in the league in terms of volume. They’re also sixth in the league in 3 point percentage at 36.8% so, we all understand where the all the Kings’ horses and all the Kings’ men should be focused today right? The Rockets are also 4th in the league in assists, mainly because James Harden’s assist numbers have absolutely exploded up from last years, going from 7.5 assists to 12.5 assists a game. Speaking of James Harden, he’s been the heart and soul of the Rocket’s offensive scheme for years now, but don’t sleep on the other role players from the Rockets where they have four guys averaging between 11 and 15 points per game and three of those guys average over 2.5 three point makes a game. For reference, The Kings have three players that average double digit scoring and the only players averaging starter’s minutes and over one three point make a game are DeMarcus and Rudy, with 1.7 and 1.4 a game respectively. The Rockets are a beast, fueled by three point makes and running on a healthy diet of whatever the heck James Harden feels like.
Defense: On the defensive side of the ball, the Rockets are pretty much a mess. I know its a pretty well used meme at this point that James Harden doesn’t play any defense, but I honestly think this year James Harden is trying harder than I’ve ever seen him on defense and yet, the team still gives up 108 points a game (18th in the league) and their defensive rating has them at 22nd in the league and while I thought that was fairly bad, I just looked again and the Kings have the fifth worst defensive rating in the league. So, take that with a grain of salt and a shot of whatever the bar has in the well that’s cheap and clear. The Rockets allow teams to shoot 38% from beyond the arc, which is the third highest percentage in the league. They’re also 21st in the league in steals, 20th in defensive rebounds and 15th in blocked shots and player fouls. All this to say that there are holes in the Rockets defense. Not 2015-2016 Sacramento Kings sized holes, but they do have a fair shot at making this a good game if they can exploit the Rockets at the three point line and by creating extra opportunities with offensive rebounds.
Prediction: As Ryan Anderson sat at the table for Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by loved ones, an aunt pointed out that she had heard that Kevin Love scored 34 points with 8 threes in the first quarter the other night and she just couldn’t understand why Ryan could never do something like that. “Well, Auntie, I try to stay within the team dynamic, unless of course I’m playing the -” A thought rushed into Ryan’s head. Could it be that - no, it couldn’t. He would know if they were coming up on the schedule. A chair smacked to the ground as Ryan’s lumbering steps made their way to his study. “The calendar,” he stammered “where the hell is my cal-” and then, under a stack of mock-ups for JJ Redick’s next tattoo he found it. It was true.
Ryan returned to the dinner table, sliding into his chair, smiling at the aunt who had questioned his prowess on the basketball court. As he looked to her, she noticed for the first time, his eyes glowed a dark shade of red. Maybe it was a reflection from the Christmas lights hanging outside. Maybe it wasn’t.
Kings 112, Rockets 107