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Rockets Breakdown: Harden, well-rounded effort extend series to Game 6

Behind James Harden's triple-double, the Rockets kept their season alive and forced a Game 6.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets managed to keep their season alive for one more game with a blowout victory over the Clippers in Game 5. Who that Rockets team that showed up in Game 5 was, I’m not sure of. I’m also not sure which team will show up for Game 6 back in Los Angeles.

Aside from poor shooting, that’s been the Rockets biggest problem; their lack of consistent effort. Hopefully, they pack their energy and effort along with their jumpers as they head back to the West Coast.

Moving Harden Around

Most of the time, James Harden dribbles the ball up the court as the de facto point guard and initiates the offense in some sort of pick and roll. What I would like to see more of, is Harden off the ball, before initiating whatever it is the Rockets actually want to run.

Here, Harden starts on one wing, cuts across the floor, while a pseudo pick and roll and a down screen happen simultaneously (I know it’s a lot going on at once, but try to stay with me). Harden then attacks the rim via a drive towards the baseline and is able to kick out to Trevor Ariza, who finally started making shots again.

J.J. Redick has done a good job of defending Harden so far in this series and causing the Rockets' offense issues. Along with having Harden start off the ball and moving around before initiating the offense, another thing I would like to see the Rockets do is screen for Harden to try and force a switch for a better matchup. They have done some of this so far but not nearly enough to break up their predictability or put Harden in a better position to create and score.

Later in the 3rd, the Rockets continued to have good player movement even though they were up 17. This seems important because it shows they didn't get complacent against the team that had the most efficient offense in the NBA during the regular season.

Jason Terry and Josh Smith get things started by running a generic pick and roll. On the opposite side of the floor Harden and Ariza manage movement by just swapping places on the floor. Smith then runs a fake dribble hand off with Ariza before giving it up to Harden on a dribble hand off/pick and roll hybrid.

The Rockets then tic-tac-toe it across the floor to Terry who eventually hits the jumper. This kind of movement forces the Clippers to actually defend instead of just standing in the paint waiting and watching every move that Harden makes.

The biggest positive from both of these plays are not just the result, but who is producing the results. Ariza came alive with 22 points and he and Terry combined to hit seven threes in Game 5. Just like the Clippers’ offense rolls along when their non-stars make shots, so does the Rockets. 

The Rockets were able to withstand very good games from Blake Griffin and Chris Paul with DeAndre Jordan’s limited minutes due to foul trouble and because the rest of the Clips were terrible. Non-CP3/Blake/DeAndre Clippers shot just 14-51 (27.4 percent) in Game 5. Also, probably not coincidently, in the three Clippers victories, they have shot better than 40 percent from three. In the Rockets two wins in the series, the Clippers have shot 25 percent or worse from deep.

While Griffin and Paul are the Clippers best two players, Jordan may be their most important. Jordan finished Game 5 with a plus/minus of zero (0). Every other Clipper was a minus on the night. That leads one to believe that even in limited minutes, in a game that was a blowout, Jordan was still able to make a huge impact while he was on the floor. 

Reggie Miller Key’s for the Rockets were pretty coach speak, but Houston was able to execute them and stayed alive.

One area that points directly to this is points in transition. The Rockets won the transition game, scoring 17 fast break points to the Clippers 3. Fast break points is all about effort and desire as much as anything. Hopefully, the Game 5 Rockets show up in L.A. so we can see a Game 7 back in Houston.