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Film Session: Make Or Miss

April 25, 2013 6:24 pm EDT

Rockets created plenty of quality looks in Game 2 -- now they have to make them

HOUSTON - In so many ways, the new lineup the Rockets unveiled Wednesday night worked precisely the way Houston’s players and coaches had hoped it would. The team’s ball and body movement improved by adding another playmaker to the mix, the floor spacing was vastly superior to what the Rockets had created during their miserable Game 1 experience, and the club put forth its best defensive performance, by far, against Oklahoma City while limiting the Thunder to 105 points – 14 points fewer then the lowest point total OKC had put up against Houston in their four prior meetings this season. The Rockets even dominated the glass while going small, outrebounding the Thunder by a whopping 18-10 margin on the offensive boards while enjoying a 57-40 advantage overall.

Due to the Jeremy Lin injury, Houston’s most used lineup Wednesday was a quintet comprised of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Carlos Delfino, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik. That fivesome finished +12 during 17 minutes of action, posting an offensive rating of 112.3 and a defensive rating of 83 – marks that would lead the league by a significant margin if they held for the duration of the season. Of course, it should go without saying that a puny one-game sample size should be taken with the most significant serving of salt obtainable. It provides reason for optimism, nothing more. In Game 3 the element of surprise will be gone and there exists no magic formula that can neutralize all of the myriad matchup problems the Thunder’s top shelf talent can pose.

What Houston’s small-ball lineup did, however, was give the team a terrific chance to steal a game in hostile territory. In fact, the Rockets might have done exactly that were it not for the biggest fly in the ointment – their inability to take full advantage of the numerous open threes they created. Shooting 10-35 (28.6 percent) just isn’t going to get the job done for Houston in this series. They have to raise that number. And if they continue to manufacture wide-open looks like this going forward, they will.

That sequence showcases the manifestation of everything Houston’s coaches have preached all season long: The preference of catch-and-shoot threes as opposed to those taken off the dribble; moving the ball from strong-side to weak; penetrating and kicking; exploiting high quality scoring opportunities via early offense; and the “swing-swing” passing you hear mentioned most every time head coach Kevin McHale addresses the media.

“With all the switching they do, you have to break that shell,” he said Thursday while discussing his team’s plan of attack against the Thunder defense. “They put a tight shell out there but once you break that shell and get inside a lot of stuff can open up.

“Looking at the film last night and this morning, we had a lot of good catch-and-shoot threes, open threes. That’s how we have to play. We don’t have a dominating inside presence. A lot of our points … it’s our guys going inside and making plays on their bigs and then kicking it out.”

There’s a reason why the NBA is referred to as a “make or miss” league. It’s one thing to create quality chances; quite another to capitalize on them. Sometimes the process and the end result don’t play nicely with one another or see eye to eye. That certainly was the case Wednesday night when James Harden and Chandler Parsons – both above average three-point shooters – combined to hit just four of their 17 attempts from beyond the arc. But so long as the Rockets continue to build upon their Game 2 blueprint, the percentages should begin to tilt in their favor soon enough.

“I thought the lineup gave them a little issue,” Parsons said. “When we space the floor like that, they can’t guard us. I think we showed that and proved that we can score on them.

“They have to guard us one-on-one when they switch and we space the floor like that. They either got to get beat one-on-one or they have to help off shooters and hopefully we just step up and make shots. Me and James missed a lot of shots last game. Hopefully it’s a different story here.”