Rockets

Exploiting Lakers’ Shooting Woes Houston’s Lone Path to Success?

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Only 12-of-255 teams in NBA history have come back from a 1-3 series deficit.

That gives the underdog a 4.7% chance of overcoming this deficit. The Denver Nuggets just did it this year against the Utah Jazz, but let’s not forget LeBron James is 13-0 when up 3-1 in a playoff series. The Houston Rockets have done it twice in NBA history (1995, 2015). Could this team replicate that? It will be a very difficult task to beat the Lakers in three consecutive games. Key points have been extremely alarming with the Rockets on the brink of elimination.

Unfortunately, Rockets guard Danuel House missed Games 3 and 4 due to a reported violation of the NBA’s safety and health protocols by having an unauthorized guest in his hotel room. He has now been ordered to leave the bubble and will miss the remainder of the series. This loss hurts because he provides scoring, rebounding and tremendous defense.

Going into Game 4, the Rockets had a chance to steal yet another game, but came up short. They are now facing elimination. The “mighty” Lakers have been pegged as favorites to come out of the West and be champions by many since last summer. They are a great team, but have had issues shooting the ball all season.

What is the Lakers’ biggest weakness?

SHOOTING.

What is the Lakers’ biggest strength?

GETTING OUT IN TRANSITION.

What is the Lakers’ biggest advantage?

SIZE.

That screams, “CLOG THE PAINT”.

Stop Allowing Easy Penetration

Looks like we have a problem here in the bubble for Houston.

After allowing only 40 paint points in Game 1, Houston has surrendered 172 over the course of Games 2-4 (54, 56 and 62, respectively). That is absurd. Los Angeles has been relentless with attacking paint. This is clearly because they do not feel threatened by a true shot-blocking presence.

It’s strange as to why the Rockets continue to guard so heavily on the perimeter and not force the ball out of LeBron and AD’s hands. The Lakers are doubling James Harden to cause disruption within the Rockets’ offense. To Houston’s credit, they have an arsenal of shooters, while the Lakers have been very subpar from that range.

There are too many off-the-ball screens, seals on smaller players, and easy cuts that help to dissect the Rockets’ defense. Here is a great breakdown of how the Lakers’ offensive strategy is stifling the Rockets’ defense.

LeBron and AD love to seal players down on the block. Rightfully so, it’s to their advantage. Houston fronts the post, but there are many times help-side is not behind the post play to prevent lobs or over-the-top passes. Without doubling and honing in on LeBron and AD, they will continue to have a field day in the paint. In Games 3 and 4, the Lakers shot an abysmal 31.7% from beyond the arc, but 51.8% overall.

Play a Zone Defense

This can all be minimized by a zone. Seldomly have we seen the Rockets do this, however. Be innovative with 1-3-1, 2-3 and 3-2 zones gives different looks for the opposition. This clogs up the two-point range, forcing many deep outside shots. The Rockets should not worry too much about either player beating them from beyond the arc.

With a zone, you can double AD as soon as he obtains the ball in the post. This is a great tactic Nick Nurse has pulled out of the hat to build a wall to defeat the Goliath’s of the NBA. He did so in the bubble against the Lakers. Let’s take a look.

In the second half, you will see the swift rotations, forcing the Lakers to devour most of the shot clock and having a difficult time navigating their way into the paint.  This also prevents easy opportunities to obtain offensive rebounds. Here the Raptors out-rebounded them 51-40.  In the last two games, Houston has been out-rebounded 95-56 (21-7 offensive). Playing small, the Rockets have to collectively rebound and being in a zone makes it easier to corral more boards.

Overall, the Rockets have played well offensively. Playing without Danuel House for a third consecutive game will be another hurdle, but the rest of the team has to step up. A zone defense will stop the bleeding from isolation situations and being a victim of paint domination. If there aren’t major changes made defensively by the Rockets, an early vacation will be headed their way.

Follow us on Twitter @RocketsLead for the latest Rockets news and insight.

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About Corey Randall

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