Rockets summer league schedule set

Houston_RocketsThe NBA announced the game schedule for the Vegas Summer League, where the Houston Rockets will be participating. For the second consecutive season, the games will be played tournament style, with three preliminary round games and each team is guaranteed to play at least five games.

Friday, July 10 (times listed are central)
Cox Pavilion
5 p.m. – Milwaukee vs. New Orleans (Game 1)
7 p.m. – Atlanta vs. Denver (Game 3)
9 p.m. – D-League Select vs. Houston (Game 5)

Thomas & Mack
5:30 p.m. – Sacramento vs. Toronto (Game 2)
7:30 p.m. – Minnesota vs. L.A. Lakers (Game 4)
9:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Cleveland (Game 6)

Saturday, July 11
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – New Orleans vs. Dallas (Game 7)
5 p.m. – Washington vs. Phoenix (Game 9)
7 p.m. – Boston vs. Portland (Game 11)
9 p.m. – Brooklyn vs. Cleveland (Game 13)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – New York vs. San Antonio (Game 8)
5:30 p.m. – Chicago vs. Minnesota (Game 10)
7:30 p.m. – L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia (Game 12)
9:30 p.m. – Miami vs. Utah (Game 14)

Sunday, July 12
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – Washington vs. D-League Select (Game 15)
5 p.m. – Chicago vs. Toronto (Game 17)
7 p.m. – Sacramento vs. Denver (Game 19)
9 p.m. – Portland vs. Dallas (Game 21)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – Phoenix vs. Houston (Game 16)
5:30 p.m. – Milwaukee vs. San Antonio (Game 18)
7:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Atlanta (Game 20)
9:30 p.m. – Philadelphia vs. Boston (Game 22)

Monday, July 13
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – Cleveland vs. Milwaukee (Game 23)
5 p.m. – D-League Select vs. Atlanta (Game 25)
7 p.m. – Miami vs. Denver (Game 27)
9 p.m. – Toronto vs. Houston (Game 29)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – New Orleans vs. Brooklyn (Game 24)
5:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Sacramento (Game 26)
7:30 p.m. – L.A. Lakers vs. New York (Game 28)
9:30 p.m. – Utah vs. Minnesota (Game 30)

Tuesday, July 14
Cox Pavilion
2 p.m. – Portland vs. San Antonio (Game 31)
4 p.m. – Brooklyn vs. Chicago (Game 33)
6 p.m. – Miami vs. Boston (Game 35)

Thomas & Mack
2:30 p.m. – Washington vs. Dallas (Game 32)
4:30 p.m. – New York vs. Philadelphia (Game 34)
6:30 p.m. – Phoenix vs. Utah (Game 36)

 

Advertisements

Harden in new Body Armor ad

James Harden, Mike Trout and Rob Gronkowski headline Body Armor sports drink’s stable of athlete endorsers and they are front and center, along with Skylar Diggins, Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman and Buster Posey in Body Armor’s new This is Now ad campaign.

Harden as an old-school, short-shorts wearing hooper? It’s in there.

HardenBodyArmor

Harden as gold-chain wearing, boom box-blasting dude? It’s in there.

HardenBodyArmorBoombox

Here’s the video:

 

 

New Rockets Clutch City trailer released

While the sting of the Rockets playoff exit certainly has not worn off yet, the NBA released a new trailer for their latest documentary Clutch City all about the Houston Rockets two championship runs in the mid-90’s. The documentary features interviews with Rudy Tomjanovich and many of the Rockets players, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Vernon Maxwell and Mario Elie, as they reflect on the team’s championships in 1994 and 1995.

It will premiere on Monday, June 8 at 8 p.m. CT on NBA TV, the evening after game two of the NBA Finals. There will also be a 30-minute show preceding the documentary with Robert Horry and other guests adding more thoughts on the Rockets championships. Here’s the link to the Clutch City trailer: Click here.

CC_Dream

CC_Mario

CC_Clyde

CC_Clyde2

CC_Sam

Harden brings his best to Game 4, WCF

Houston_RocketsHouston Rockets guard James Harden turned in the finest postseason performance of his still young NBA career in propelling his team to a 128-115 game 4 victory. He did so with his team facing elimination for the fourth time this postseason. His playoff career high 45-point effort in game four of the western conference finals ensured the Rockets would extend the series and their season for another game and kept alive their hopes of being the first team in NBA history to win a series after falling in a 3-0 hole. But let’s keep that off in the distance a bit, since that’s really where it is, way off in the distance, three wins away. Houston just grabbed their first win in eight games against the Warriors over the course of this season.

Now back to Harden, who has been an offensive force this entire season and on into the playoffs. The best news for Rockets fans, though, is that he has turned it up a notch in the western conference finals against an elite team and an elite defense. It’s also not the first time Harden had raised his offensive game in the conference finals. It’s his third trip to conference finals, first with Houston – and as the chart below depicts (click for larger view), this is his finest playoff performance to date.Remember the totals for his four game ride against Golden State includes his game 3 clunker, 3-of-16, 17 point performance. Here are Harden’s offensive numbers in each of his 13 career postseason series.

JamesSeries

The Warriors have thrown Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and others at Harden, and he’s continued his effective, efficient performance. Here’s his shot chart through four games.

HardenVsGSThru4

In his 45-point game 4 performance, Harden was getting it done against all comers. According to SportVu player tracking data, Harden scored 20 points on 10 isolation plays and another 15 points on 16 ball screens.

Houston won their pair of titles in 1994 and 1995 and then advanced in the playoffs each of the following two seasons. Since then they had advanced in the playoffs only one time. Just one playoff series victory since 1997, until this season. Twice they have advanced this postseasons and in doing so the Rockets, like their championship teams are showing incredible ability to stave off elimination. Since Harden arrived in Houston, the Rockets have won seven times when facing elimination, including their current four straight wins in that situation. They are 7-2 overall with Harden in elimination games, although if that record doesn’t rise to 10-2, the Rockets will have lost all but 1 of the series they faced elimination.

Then again if they stave off elimination and advance this time – they will have made NBA history.

Rockets couldn’t get two, so still need four

Houston_RocketsAfter a second consecutive fantastic effort at Golden State against the Warriors in the western conference finals, the Rockets are left wanting more. Technically, they are wanting just about the only thing they didn’t get – a win. The Rockets fell by a scant one point, 99-98, Thursday night to the Warriors when on their final possession – the final possession – of the game, they were unable to even launch a potential game-winning shot.

Trailing by one, after forcing a Harrison Barnes miss at the rim, James Harden grabbed the rebound and started heading downhill, looking for the win. He was met at the 3-point line by the Warriors star backcourt duo, Klay Thompson on Harden’s right, Steph Curry on his left.

Not liking what he saw, in terms of a driving lane, Harden stepped back and passed the ball to his right to Dwight Howard, who immediately tossed it back to Harden with just under three seconds remaining. Thompson and Curry remained glued to Harden and after he took one dribble, he lost control of the ball. A brief scramble ensued, very brief, and he final buzzer went off. All the Rockets needed was two points and they would have gotten out of Golden State with the win they had to have. By not getting two points, they still need four wins to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning the title in 1995.

Harden, who was named first team all-NBA for the second consecutive season earlier in the day, had been brilliant up to that point. The Rockets found themselves in position to get the must-have victory on the road because of his 38 point night. Harden finished one assist shy of a triple-double, just as he did in game one, and pushed the Rockets to the brink of victory with every play he made in the final minutes. Right up until the final play, which he didn’t make.

“(I) got the ball off the glass, and I’m thinking, just to try to get an easy one,” Harden said after the game about the final play gone wrong. “They did a good job of having two guys on me, so I couldn’t attack, and when I looked up I saw a red jersey and it was Dwight, so I tried to throw it back to him. At that time, I’m thinking five seconds on the clock, so I tried to get the ball back, and it was still two guys right there, and I watched the film, it’s just a tough, tough play.”

Heading off the court, Harden knocked over some temporary curtains back in the tunnel and described his frustration along with his teammates encouragement in the locker room.

“(It’s) frustrating to give the game away like that for myself, but my teammates and coaches were behind me, just saying that we’re going home to secure home now, go out there Game 3,” Harden said, explaining the support from his teammates. “Ten out of 10 times we’ll take that play. It gave me confidence, but it’s still frustrating when I know I could have at least got a shot up.”

“It’s just a little frustrated at that last play, but overall I feel good. We’re really confident about what we have going on,” Harden said. “We let two slip away, so now we go back to Houston and take care of business at home. Just because we’re going home doesn’t make it easy.”

With just under three minutes to go, Steph Curry, who had 33 points in the game, drained a long jumper with his foot on the 3-point line to put the Warriors up eight points – their largest lead of the second half. Harden immediately answered with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five, 94-89.

After assisted Andrew Bogut on a layup, Harden went to the free throw line and missed his only free throw of the game, but still closed the gap to six when he made his second attempt.

The Warriors then bled 41 seconds off the clock, thanks to a questionable offensive rebound by Harrison Barnes, when it looked like Terrence Jones was knocked to the floor by Draymond Green. Curry capped that possession with his final points of the game on a step-back jumper from 22 feet out and the Warriors again led by eight. Now only 1:39 remained on the clock.

Harden wasn’t done yet, again driving and drawing a foul. His free throws cut the lead to six and after Green made a one of two free throws, Harden drove again, this time finishing with his only dunk of the game. The deficit was five. A Barnes 3-point miss followed and Harden went driving again, got fouled, and drained two more free throws. The deficit dipped to three.

Following his second free throw, the Rockets sent both Corey Brewer and Jones at Steph Curry trying to bring the ball up court, his initial pass was nearly stolen by Brewer and it ultimately led to an eight-second violation on Golden State and a huge turnover for Houston.

No surprise what the Rockets did next. Harden drove right this time and despite both Thompson and Green draped all over him, he floated a perfect lob pass to Dwight Howard, who finished the alley-oop to make it a one-point game, 99-98, with 33 seconds remaining.

Harden had scored 12 of the Rockets last 15 points, with the only non-Harden basket coming on the alley-oop pass he made to Howard.

The Rockets then made their final big defensive stop of many down the stretch, followed by the shot that never came.

Game three is Saturday night in Houston. The last time a team feel behind two games to none on the road in the conference finals and come back to win the series was the Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat the San Antonio in four straight games after losing the first two in 2012. Harden, in his final season with the Thunder, averaged 18.5 points per game on 49% shooting from the floor and 61 percent on 3-pointers in that six-game series against the Spurs.

Similarly, Harden’s Thunder were the second seed facing the top seeded Spurs, just as his current Rockets are the two seed facing the top seeded Warriors.

The votes are in – how’d I do?

Now that all the major NBA awards have been announced, I’ll share how I did with my unofficial votes. My votes listed first, followed by the actual results.

MVP
1. Harden 2. Curry 3. Paul 4. James 5. Davis 6. Westbrook
ACTUAL
1. Curry, 2. Harden 3. James 4. Westbrook 5. Davis

Coach
1. Kerr 2. Popovich 3. Budenholzer 4. McHale 5. Snyder 6. Stevens
ACTUAL
1. Bud 2. Kerr 3. Kidd 4. Stevens 5. Pop 6. McHale

Rookie
1. Wiggins 2. Mirotic 3. Noel 4. Payton
ACTUAL
1. Wiggins 3. Mirotic 3. Noel 4. Payton

Defensive Player
1. Leonard 2. Green 3. Gobert 4. Jordan
ACTUAL
1. Leonard 2. Green 3. Jordan 4. Davis 5. Gobert

Most Improved Player
1. Butler 2. Gobert 3. Motiejunas
ACTUAL
1. Butler 2. Green 3. Gobert (8. Motiejunas)

Sixth Man
1. Thomas 2. Williams 3. Crawford
ACTUAL
1. Williams 2. Thomas 3. Crawford

All-NBA
1st: Curry, Harden, James, Davis, Cousins
2nd: Paul, Westbrook, Griffin, Aldridge, M Gasol
3rd: Irving, Thompson, Duncan, P Gasol, D Jordan
ACTUAL
1st: Curry, Harden, James, Davis, M GASOL
2nd: Paul, Westbrook, Aldridge, COUSINS, P GASOL
3rd: Irvng, Thompson, Duncan, D Jordan, GRIFFIN
(The 15 players I unofficially voted for, all made 1st, 2nd or 3rd team.)

Rockets Howard still unsure about game two

Houston_RocketsAs the Rockets prepare for game two of the western conference finals, the only thing that is certain is the Dwight Howard that took the floor to start the series will not be available for Thursday night’s game. That’s not to definitively rule him out of the contest after he suffered a left knee sprain in the first quarter of game one, but it was clear watching him try to labor through the pain in several short stints that followed, he will not be the same player, if he plays, this soon after the injury. On Wednesday’s day between games, Howard said the knee felt no better.

“The same. The same,” Howard said, when asked about how his knee felt the day after he suffered the injury. “You know, it was very sore.  It was throbbing during the game.  But just another test that I think I’ll be able to overcome.”

At Thursday’s gameday shootaround, Howard was wearing a brace on his left knee and coach Kevin McHale said he was trying to get comfortable with it, calling him a game-time decision.

Howard, who would certainly be limited if he should try to play through the injury, missed 41 games, mainly due to a right knee injury during the regular season. While it’s accurate to say they’ve successfully dealt with him being out or limited during the season previously, their means to cope with the absence are quite different.

When Howard missed his 41 regular season games, the Rockets turned to the same player 38 times to fill his void. Donatas Motiejunas, who finished eighth in most improved player voting this season, averaged just over 30 minutes a game in those games he played without Howard. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 51.1 percent  from the floor, while he took on the role of top low-post option and presence. But with the back injury and subsequent surgery he had late in the season, he is not available to fill-in this time.

Enter Clint Capela. The 21-year old rookie, played in just 12 regular season games for the Rockets, while spending the bulk of the season with the Rockets d-league franchise in the Rio Grande Valley. But he’s played in all 13 of the Rockets postseason games as Howard’s primary backup at center. He’s shooting 67 percent from the floor in the playoffs and has made his last ten shots. His per 36 minute averages are excellent at 18 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. Among players with at least 100 minutes played this postseason, his rebounding ranks third, behind only teammate Howard (15.0) and the Clippers DeAndre Jordan (14.0).  Similarly his blocked shot numbers would place him second behind only the Cavaliers Timofey Mozgov (2.9).

While he has thrived since joining the rotation, he’s only played roughly eight minutes per game. Potentially he could be leaned on a whole lot more. “When you have different players, you have different strengths on the floor,” McHale said about dealing with injuries and different lineups. “So when you have different strengths on the floor, you’ve got to play to different things.  But 90 percent of it is‑‑ Clint (Capela) is not going to turn into Dwight Howard overnight.  He might, but I don’t know.  He’s got to hit the weight room.”

After some laughter, he continued, “You know, those are really impossible questions to answer because different players bring different things, like we’re a different team every time we make a substitution.  Your team changes a little bit.  We’ve just got to go out there and play.”

Capela played one minute and 12 seconds in the regular season against the Warriors, missing his only shot in a Rockets 12-point loss back in November. In Tuesday’s game one, Capela was very effective, making all four his shots, grabbing four rebounds and scoring nine points in just under 13 minutes.

“They’re a different ballclub, for sure,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Capela has been playing really well, and I’m sure he’ll probably fill in at the 5 for him. You see the growth of him over the course of the season.
You know, we’re going to prepare as if Dwight is playing, and if not, we’ll adjust the game plan a little bit.”

Terrence Jones had his own injuries during the season and also was not available for many of the games Howard missed during the regular season. Jones first 21 games back after his nerve injurywere all played without Howard and Jones averaged 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during that strethc. He has not been nearly as consistent or productive in the playoffs, as he’s come off the bench in the last four games. He missed eight of his ten shots in game one.

Notes, notes and more notes on Rockets – Warriors

– As you know by now the Rockets became the ninth team in NBA history to fight back from a 3-games-to-1 series deficit to advance when they toppled the Clippers in game seven on Sunday. In the first four games of the series, the Clippers scored 109 or more points in every game and averaged 119.5 points per game. In the final three games of the series, the Clippers averaged 103.3 points per game.

– James Harden in final three games of series vs. the Clippers: 26.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 7apg, while shooting 35 percent FG & 24 percent FT. Houston won all three games.

– Josh Smith in series vs. Clippers as a reserve in games 1-4: 9-33 FG (27%), 1-9 3ptFG (11%), 6.3 ppg.
Josh Smith in series vs. Clippers as a starter in games 5-7: 15-26 FG (58%), 7-14 3ptFG (50%), 14.3 ppg.

– Dwight Howard continues to be the playoff leader in rebounding at 13.8 rebounds per game.

– Through injuries and roster changes, the Rockets personnel likely to be used against Golden State is quite different than the group that faced them in the four regular season meetings, all won by the Warriors. The chart below shows the regular season games, minutes and points in the four regular season games.

RoxvsGSW

– The only two Rockets to score 40 total points against the Warriors this season were James Harden (101) and Donatas Motiejunas (52). Note Terrence Jones played in zero games against Golden State this season.

– To help illustrate who actually saw time against the Warriors in the regular season for Houston, take a look at the Rockets offensive rebound leaders vs Warriors this season:
Motiejunas 14
Dorsey 8
Papanikolaou 7
Black 5
Howard 5

– Josh Smith posted a career high 12 assists against the Warriors this season. But he did that while still with the Detroit Pistons. He nearly posted a triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists, though he shot just 6-of-18 and the Pistons lost 104-93. He would play in 11 more games with Detroit, before being waived and signing with the Rockets. He and Corey Brewer played for Houston in just two of the four games against the Warriors in the regular season, with both meetings coming within a month of them joining the team.

– There have only been 10 teams in NBA history to win 67 or more games in a season. The last 67-15 team suffered a major upset in playoffs and three of the current Rockets team/staff played in that series. Golden State beat the 67-15 Dallas Mevericks in the 2007 playoffs. Guard Jason Terry was on that Mavericks team, along with assistant coach Greg Buckner, while player development coach Josh Powell was with the Warriors.

– The Warriors starting five when healthy is Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. They went 50-7 during the regular season, which is the second-best winning percentage in NBA history (min. 40 games started), behind only the 1995-95 Bulls that went 72-10 and won the title that season. Current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was a reserve guard on that team.

– That group has started all 10 games in the playoffs and the Warriors are 8-2. So they have nine losses in 67 games as the starting five and Houston is tasked with beating them four times within seven games.

– Only once in NBA history before this season had a team made over 867 3-pointers in a season. Both the Rockets, who set the new all-time single-season record with 933 3-pointers and the Warriors with 883 3-pointers eclipsed that total this season.

What they’re writing:

SportVU stats & player tracking from Rockets game 7 victory

Dwight Howard Comes Up Big – Sports On Earth

Rockets need more consistency – SI.com

The collapse – Grantland.com

The uncertainty and vindication from an epic NBA collapse – NY Post

Daryl Morey didn’t make the rules, he just knows how to win with them – Grantland.com

Number preview: Rockets vs. Warriors – nba.com

Warriors-Rockets is about Curry vs Harden … and much more – nba.com

Rockets Harden finishes 2nd in MVP voting

The news broke Sunday that Rockets guard James Harden would not win the MVP award and the official announcement came on Monday morning, just hours before the Rockets begin their western conference semifinals series against the Los Angeles Clippers, that Harden, indeed was the runner-up the Golden State’s Steph Curry. Vote totals were as follows:

2015MVP

This series of tweets offers some analysis of voting breakdowns.

Full voting results by voter can be found here.

Three-pointers on Game 5 & Rockets series victory

The Rockets handled the Mavericks in the postseason, similarly to how they handled them in he regular season. After beating Dallas three times in four meetings during the regular season, they accomplished the same through the first four games of their first round playoff series. Their game five 103-94 victory, propelled them into the second round for just the second time since 1997.

1. The Rockets needed another fast start, like they’d had in each of the first four games. They got it. Houston carried a nine-point lead into the second quarter, thanks to another hot shooting first quarter. Houston made 13-of-24 shots in the first quarter, including 5-of-10 3-pointers. In the playoffs, Houston is the only team shooting above 50 percent in the first quarter of their games and Houston is way up there at 55.4 percent.

Any hopes the Mavericks had of carrying momentum from their game four win into Houston was squashed almost immediately as they managed just 22 points in the first quarter and fell right back into their familiar shooting woes from their first two games in Houston to begin the playoffs. Dallas shot well over fifty-percent in their two games in Dallas, but they shot below 45 percent in all three games in Houston, including just 38 percent in game five.

2. Rick Carlisle certainly thought he found something with the insertion of Al-Farouq Aminu and J.J. Barea into the starting lineup for game four. Their starting five outscored Houston by 21 points in their 18 minutes on the court together and Barea dropped 13 assists, while scoring 17 points. Barea could not duplicate that performance. While he did have nine assists in game five, he was unable to create offense in the half court as he did in previous games.  He shot just 3-of-12 and Houston did a much better job of limiting his penetration off of pick and rolls. The Mavericks were (+22) with Barea on the court in game four, but a (-19) with him on the floor in game five.

Aminu was just as good, if not better, in game five as he was in game four. As noted below, his defense on Harden was strong in the fact that he made Harden work to get what he got. His contributions defensively overall and then additionally on offense were immense. He had 14 points on eight shots, mainly because he made his free throws (7-8). He grabbed nine rebounds and had a game high five steals and also had two ferocious fast break dunks during one of several Dallas’ outbursts in game five. For the series, Aminu shot 55 percent from the floor, 64 percent behind the 3-point line and 79 percent at the free throw line. All were way up from his regular season percentages of 41 percent (FG), 27.4 percent (3ptFG) and 71.2 percent (FT).

3. Kevin McHale said after the series clincher that Houston would not have gotten by Dallas in five games if not for Josh Smith’s play. That’s for sure. Smith was the Rockets second leading scorer in game five, just as he was for the entire series. He dropped 20 points in 22:27 of playing time, made 7-of-12 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in game five. He still made careless plays with the ball, committing four turnovers, but his overall contributions easily outweighed his mistakes in game five and over the course of the series. He electrified the crowd constantly with his creative and constant alley-oop passes to Dwight Howard and saved his best for last with some outstanding play in the fourth quarters of the series. He shot 69 percent in the fourth quarters and led the Rockets with nine 4th quarter assists – nearly all of them the aforementioned rim-rattlers he offered up to Howard.

In the five game series, he averaged 17.4 points, 6.4 rebounds while playing less than 26 minutes per game. (His per 36 minute scoring numbers were 24.5 points, again, second best on the team to Harden.) He actually outshot Harden from behind the 3-point line, 39.1 percent to 38.7 percent and made 51.5 percent of his shots from the floor. He was, however, consistently the Rockets worst performer at the free throw line, shooting 50 percent or worse in all five games and just 43.5 percent for the series.

Moving forward

After Houston’s game four loss, Trevor Ariza said, “I take a lot of responsibility because I didn’t play particularly well. I played with low energy. That won’t happen again.” He certainly played with better energy in game five, grabbing 11 rebounds for the second time in the series. Interestingly, he’s now had 11 or more rebounds in four of his last nine playoff games after accomplishing that only twice in the first 48 playoff games of his career. He was the Rockets second leading rebounder at 6.6 per game and in this series it was of great importance for him to contribute in that way because he was atrocious shooting the ball.

Ariza made only 13 shots in the five game series, while missing 32 times. He was just 5-of-22 on his 3-pointers as well. The Rockets were nearly unbeatable when Ariza hit at least 40 percent of his 3-point attempts during the season, going 24-3, until a pair of losses in the final week of the season to San Antonio, who obviously could be their next opponent. Advancing to the western conference finals likely isn’t happening unless Ariza starts making his 3-pointers. Because he means so much to their defense, he will be on the court regardless, but they’ll need something from him offensively.

– Harden had an MVP caliber regular season and could find out this week if he wins the award. And still, his numbers went up in the first round against the Mavericks. He also played fewer minutes per game. While it is completely accurate to say that Al-Farouq Aminu did a good job of defending Harden, it’s also accurate to say Harden still got his. He scored at least 24 points in all five games and took fewer than 20 shots in all but one game. That one game was game three, when he took 24 shots and made 15 of them on his way to a career playoff high 42 points. Clearly in game five, Harden had too many turnovers (6), but even his turnovers were down from the regular season (3.9 per game to 3.8).

HardenRegPost

Also Harden’s usage rate actually went down in the postseason from 31.3 to 29.3. It was a huge bounce back series for Harden, who struggled in both of his previous playoff appearances with Houston, shooting a combined 38.3 percent from the field in his first 12 playoff games with Houston. The contributions from his teammates were also evident compared to last season’s short playoff trip. He averaged two more assists per game compared to last postseason, while playing nearly eight fewer minutes. After playing 40 minutes or more in all six games against Portland last season, Harden played 39 minutes or less in all five games of this series.

– To no one’s surprise, Howard clearly and handily won his matchup in last year’s post season against Portland’s Robin Lopez. Well, he did the same thing against Dallas’ Tyson Chandler.

Howard14and15playoffs

Matching up against DeAndre Jordan will be tough, but it will be the first time to see that matchup in awhile since Howard missed all four games against the Clippers. Howard was outstanding against the Spurs this season averaging 21 points, 14.5 rebounds per game and shot 71.7 percent from the field in four games.

Game one of the Rockets western conference semifinals series will begin on Monday, May 4 at Toyota Center, with Houston holding home court advantage over either the Clippers or the Spurs and hosting games one, two and if necessary games five and seven.