Houston Rockets: 3 takeaways from first 25 games

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images /
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Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images /

3. Late offensive struggles have proven to be costly

Although there have been a plethora of factors behind the Rockets’ abysmal start this season, one could easily state that they have no one to assign fault to but themselves. The squad that once boasted the league’s best clutch net rating on offense has struggled mightily down the stretch in crunch time.

Despite of currently owning the seventh-best offensive rating in basketball, Houston’s offense has struggled to convert and find quality shots late in ball games, shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 21.6 percent from 3-point range in games decided by five points or less.

Both figures are presently the third-worst in the league to date, as the Rockets have posted a 5-6 record in games that are considered as clutch contests.

"“You just have to figure your way out of it,” Rockets guard James Harden told ESPN ‘s Tim MacMahon following Houston’s 107-104 road loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 8. “Obviously, we want to be perfect, we want things to go great and sometimes they don’t and sometimes you hit a speed bump. We’ve got to go figure it out.”"

James Harden, who currently is leading the league in scoring and usage rate for the second straight campaign, has managed to commit more turnovers than assists in the final frame through 22 games, posting a 0.88 assist-to-turnover ratio in clutch situations. Chris Paul has only attempted a total of four shots within the final five minutes or less in either the fourth quarter or overtime.

To put that into perspective, Cedi Osman and Ryan Arcidiacano have hoisted more shot attempts in clutch situations this year than the 33-year-old point guard — two young players who play with the ball in their hands much less than the Point God himself.

Although one could argue the Rockets’ struggles are due to the limited action that Harden and  Paul have seen on the floor together in clutch situations, the two dynamic scorers in isolation — and valuable playmakers alongside Eric Gordon — must find a way to elevate their game come money time. Finding a way to generate quality ball movement and flow, combined with limiting forced looks in the final minutes of play, could be exactly what helps Mike D’Antoni and co. live up to their grand nickname once again.