Let’s talk total trends.
Now that the buyout market has been raided and the trade deadline is behind us, NBA teams look like they’re going to go for the rest of the season. With the All-Star break coming even later in February this year, games are going to take on increased importance, which likely means a reduction in pace.
That makes the Rockets the ultimate outlier since they’re looking to push at all times. Houston continued its push since adding elite bench scorer Lou Williams over the weekend in an impressive 123-109 win over Memphis on Saturday.
James Harden had 33 points and 11 assists, strengthening his case for MVP by securing his league-leading 49th double-double. Entering Monday’s clash at San Antonio, it’s obvious the books are bracing for the carnage, opening with the number at 220, the highest seen in a game in that series in years. It actually rose to 221.5.
Houston averaged 129 points in their four wins since the All-Star break and was held to 108 in a lone loss against Indiana, so D’Antoni’s wish to try and get up 50 three-point shots per game is clearly paying dividends and will remain the norm.
The 123-108 win over a team filled with defensive standouts like Memphis is an eye-opener, surpassing the posted total of 222. On Wednesday, the Rockets will deal with the top defensive in the team as the Utah Jazz come to town and Sunday’s primetime showcase happens to feature the Cavs, in for their lone visit.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni has thumped his chest and declared more offense is sure to come as he revels in a system that GM Daryl Morey has helped facilitate, which is a different take on his seven-seconds-or-less days in Phoenix.
In the present, Harden is in the Steve Nash role of catalyst, but the 3-pointer has replaced even bothering with alley-oops to Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. Why settle for the two when Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza and now Williams can spot up and drop one in for the extra point?
The Rockets have made 20 or more 3-pointers in nine games already this season, breaking the mark Golden State set last season with seven games of 20 or more makes from beyond the arc. The plan is to put this record completely out of reach.
According to the Houston Chronicle, D’Antoni’s instructions to Williams upon his arrival were to “only shoot when you touch it.” They christened the Cousins-Anthony Davis marriage in New Orleans by reminding everyone that bigs don’t impact the game as much when you stay out of the paint, attempting 51 3-pointers.
Afterward, the Rockets head coach hinted we’d better get used to seeing such a high volume of 3-point attempts fired up from this group the rest of the way. Williams matched a season-high with seven makes, immersing himself into the culture immediately.
“It’s easy to play with these guys,” Williams told reporters. “It’s a very open style. Everybody eats. Everybody’s happy. It fits my style.”
He’s actually slumped since a 28-point explosion in a game where the Rockets went 5-for-35 from 3-point range around him, hitting just 2-for-13 3s, so it’s not like this team is shooting high percentages. In games where they’re allowed to find a rhythm, they’re going to annihilate defenses that struggle to defend the perimeter.
The rest of the league should start playing at a slower pace in games that are meaningful. Without Kevin Durant, Golden State has relied on its defense and shooting flurries and actually dropped consecutive games for the first time in years.
Six of the Warriors’ last seven games have come in under the posted total, including four straight on the road. They took that stream into Philips Arena on Monday, where the under had prevailed in 10 of 13 Hawks games since Feb. 2.
Indiana is on a seven-game UNDER run and has covered four of five, so they may also be ready to slow it down after experimenting with the faster pace Nate McMillan was brought on board to implement.
In the race for the final playoff spot in the West, Denver is 1.5 games up on Portland and two ahead of Dallas as they take the floor against the Kings, who they currently lead by three games.
The Mavericks utilized a tremendous defensive game to defeat OKC on Sunday night and have found a winning formula that has also featured a slower pace. The UNDER has prevailed in eight of their last nine games entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the Lakers.
New Orleans took a streak of three straight covers into Utah to face Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner Rudy Gobert. The UNDER is 8-1 over the last nine Pelicans games as the posted total has been surpassed only once since they acquired Cousins at the All-Star break.
The UNDER has prevailed in fove of the last six Timberwolves games as Tom Thibodeau has finally gotten through in getting his young team to play at a more deliberate pace, allowing them to set their defense.