Last season’s Rockets team had some playoff experience led by Dwight Howard and James Harden as both had reached the NBA finals previously in their careers. This season’s team has a lot more postseason experience and it has little to do with the six games added from last year’s postseason trip. So how does it compare to the Mavericks roster, which boasts ten players with at least 10 years of NBA experience?
While Dallas has a lot more experience overall, both teams have three titles. Five of which were won in 2011 with the Mavericks.
The oddest note about playoff experience? Trevor Ariza is the only player in this series that won a playoff series last year. He did so with the Wizards.
– In 73 games last season, James Harden attempted 28 shots or more in a game only one time. That came in March against Portland, he also scored 41 points and made 7-of-12 3’s in that game the Rockets won by five points. In the first round playoff series against Portland, he attempted 28 shots or more twice in six games, including his forgettable 13-35 performance in game 3, a game the Rockets won. He shot under 43 percent in all but one game and 33 percent or worse in half the games.
It wasn’t until games five and six, that Harden finally found he and his team’s comfort zone. He attempted 15 shots in each game, matching his lowest total for the series and scored 51 points on those 30 shots (1.7 points per shot) That came after scoring just 110 points on 103 shots 1.07 points per shot).
Harden’s shooting success has dipped significantly in the postseason in both of his first two seasons with Houston as you can see in the chart below.
What’s worse is that with his shooting percentage on a serious decline, his shot attempts have skyrocketed, especially last season. Last season, after attempting more than 22 field goals in a game just six times the entire regular season, he averaged more than 22 field goal attempts per game against the Blazers in the first round defeat. His 3-point attempts also rose significantly, with very poor results. If not for his 4-of-6 performance behind the 3-point line in game six, the numbers would have been even uglier. Through five games, he made just 12-of-48 3-pointers (25 percent on 9.6 attempts per game). Clearly, the Rockets would like to see a bit better success rate in this series. Numbers closer in step with what he produced against Dallas in their four meetings this regular season.
Remember, all but the game on April 2 were played without Dwight Howard, while three of the four were played with both Pat Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas in the starting lineup. Both are now out for the season. Those two are joined by rookie K.J. McDaniels who was apparently hurt in the final game of the season and is now listed out with nondisplaced right elbow fracture. He was not expected to used in the postseason.
– The Rockets have seen their fair share of the intentionally fouling, especially during the final week of the season. The shoe might be on the other foot, or rather the brick might be in the other hand in this series. As mentioned here, Rondo had a historically bad season at the free throw line. But no team intentionally fouled him repeatedly to get him to the free throw line all season. He shot more than four free throws in a game just once, going 2-10. But that was with Boston in the first month and none of the free throws were shot after an intentional foul.
Poor free-throw shooting and intentionally fouling poor free throw shooters is evidently on the rise, since four others players matched Rondo’s feat (under 40 percent free-throw shooting, with a minimum of 75 attemps) this season alone. DeAndre Jordan did it for the fourth time in his career. Andre Drummond has now done it twice in his three year career, while two other bigs joined the club. One was Ian Mahinmi, who turned in the second-worst season in NBA history at 30.4 percent. The other will be playing in this very same playoff series, or at least sitting on the bench in his Rockets uniform, and he is the record-holder, Joey Dorsey. Dorsey became the first player in league history to attempt at least 75 free throws and make less than 30 percent. He settled in at 28.9 percent, which, despite his sparkling 3-of-4 finish at the free throw line over the final four games was still record-setting.
– Harden looks for success vs. Texas rivals (nba.com/Fran Blinebury)
– ESPN predictions
– ESPN Forecast
– Hardwood Paroxysm
– Parsons prepared to be Public Enemy No. 1 in Houston (espn.com/Tim MacMahon)
– Cuban on Rockets, Officiating and his 15 years as Mavericks owner (Grantland) – Mark Cuban gives his take on Harden and the Rockets in this article saying, “…James Harden, I think, is the MVP. Because that’s not a very good team over there.”