Houston Rockets Game 2 Adjustment – Get to the Rim on Pick and Roll
In the February 20 win against the Thunder, the Rockets scored 1.02 points per possession (PPP), helped by their 1.27 PPP in 11 possessions ended by the pick and roll ball handler. In Game 1, they managed only 0.78 PPP, which included 0.93 PPP in 15 possessions ended by the pick and roll ball handler. There are several adjustments that the Rockets need to make on the offensive end to help them compete in this series but a major one is how the ball handler in the pick and roll makes decisions.
In their February win, the Rockets ball handlers attacked the rim out of the pick and roll. In the nine possessions ended with a shot by the pick and roll ball handler, five of them were layups at the rim. Of these five layups, the Rockets made four of them, as they attacked the basket out of the ball screen. You can see in the following two clips how Jeremy Lin and James Harden drove to the rim instead of settling for jump shots in the regular season win.
Only two of the ten shots in Game 1 by the pick and roll ball handler ended in a layup, with the rest ending in tough jump shots. The Rockets made the two shots at the rim but their reliance on jump shots hurt their overall effectiveness out of the pick and roll. As you can see from the below clips, they choose to take long jump shots instead of slashing to the rim for closer attempts. The opportunity is there for the ball handlers to penetrate to the rim and attempt a shot at the rim but they continually choose to pull up for the jump shot.
Look at this frame from a pick and roll below. James Harden’s defender has fallen and the opportunity is open for him to slice through the lane to get to the rim, as he is isolated against Serge Ibaka. However, he takes a step back and takes a three point attempt, which he misses instead of forcing the defense to make a play. When they were aggressive in their earlier win, they had success when they challenged the big men of OKC by driving the ball to the rim. Here, Harden chooses to shoot over him instead of trying to drive by him.
Here are some additional clips highlighting this deficiency and showing the Rockets guards pulling up for jump shots instead of putting the onus on the defense to stop their dribble penetration.
The Rockets offense overall was poor in Game 1 but their decision making out of the pick and roll was especially bad. Ranked #1 in PPP in plays ended by the pick and roll ball handler in the regular season, according to Synergy Sports, their guards struggled out of this action in the opening game. A slight adjustment to their aggressiveness will make them a more dangerous offensive team and put more pressure on the Thunder.
The Rockets did show flashes of this in game one and need to show more of this aggressiveness in game two, instead of taking jump shots. It may only be an extra couple of baskets throughout the game but this could be the difference in a close game.
The Rockets need to do all they can to avoid going down 2-0 against the Thunder. This adjustment of driving the ball to the rim in the pick and roll against pulling up for long jump shots could be the key in getting some easy baskets or free throws to help their offense. The Thunder did not do anything unique on defense, so it is up to the Rockets guards to read the situation and make the proper choice coming off the ball screen. If they get back on the right track with regards to their decision making out of the pick and roll, look for their offense overall to be much improved from Game 1.
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