This could be an exhaustive analysis of Rockets losses, but it isn't. This is a small piece from when night found me awake, and in pain. In pain from a Rockets loss, in pain from a migraine, it makes little difference, as I'm sharing my pain with you anyhow.
The Rockets have lost 11 times this year. Sometimes you might blame the schedule, or injuries, or a lack of interest. A few times you might just have to admit the other team plain stomped Houston. (First Clippers game, Indiana, and oddly, Sacramento.)
But the gift for pattern recognition that is both the blessing and the curse of humanity began to nag at me. What was I seeing in common in the losses? Was I looking for a pattern that simply wasn't there? Fortunately, like many of you out there, I also have the gift of reason, so I decided to investigate. Here are some (very) preliminary conclusions.
1. Score a lot.
Teams that defeated the Rockets scored less than 105 only twice. Teams beating the Rockets scored less than 110 only 5 times. The Rockets failed to score at least 100 in only 5 losses. Rockets failed to score at least 94 in only 3 losses. Rockets scored more than 115 in three defeats.
2. Shoot the three well. Really well.
Hot three point shooting is pretty much crucial if you want to beat Houston. Of the 11 defeats, opponents have shot greater than 40% from 3pt range 8 times. (With 7 of those teams shooting shooting better than 45% from three -59% being the top in the loss to Utah) 9 of 11 opponents shot better than 38% from 3pt range, with only the Kings shooting less than 30%.
3. Shoot Everything Else Well, Too
5 opponents averaged better than 50% FG%, with the high water mark being Dallas' mid-range festival score of 58% in the three point loss there. No opponent shooting less than 40% has defeated the Rockets.
4. Keep the FTs close, even with Hack-A-Howard
Only in Rocket losses with Hack-A-Howard did the Rockets shoot more than 5FTs than their opponents. Yet only two opponents shot more FTs than Houston in defeating them - as you might expect in contests of jumpers.
5. Hope Houston can't hit a 3.
Not only should an opponent light it up from 3pt range, in defeat Houston generally can't hit threes. Houston has broken 30% from 3pt range in only 3 of its defeats. The team sunk as low as 18% in the debacle at Indiana. The Rockets average 28% from 3 in all defeats.
6. Benefit from injuries and constantly shifting lineups.
The Rockets passed their 2012-2013 "Games Lost to Injury" total some days ago, with no end in sight. The team didn't start the year entirely healthy, and it certainly hasn't stayed healthy. James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Aaron Brooks, Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Terrence Jones have all lost time to injury or illness this season. Only Dwight Howard has been available for every game. Repeating that - only Dwight Howard has been available for every game this season.
Rockets are mainly susceptible to teams that can hit long jumpers, especially three pointers, and also teams that have big men who can hit outside shots. A quick look at the shot charts from all the defeats generally shows a lot of made jumpers in Rockets losses.
Even amongst teams that manage the jumper, and have shooting bigs, the opponent pretty much has to go nuts from 3pt range. 9 of 11 defeats came when opponents shot better than 38% from three, while the Rockets similarly couldn't hit a three, averaging 28% in defeat.
Basically, with two or three exceptions, an opponent has to manage a banner shooting night while the Rockets go cold.
This is merely a descriptive piece. Whatever you may think the reasons are for losses, I thought I'd lay out just how freaking well an opponent has to shoot to beat the Rockets, and just how miserably the Rockets have to shoot in turn, and that you'd better expect to score at least 105 if you want to beat even a cold shooting Rockets team.