The Houston Rockets looked like they all crushed a few Red Bulls before tip-off, while New York appeared to have just come from a five-course meal at Peter Lugers.
When the Rockets acquired their backcourt, they adopted a new team identity to go with it. They didn't have a choice if these were the guys they handpicked to dominate the ball.
Harden and Lin's strengths are linked to their ability to create offense off the dribble. The two excel at attacking the rim and getting out in transition.
Below is an example of how the Rockets are dangerous from the perimeter. Because Lin and Harden are both capable of beating their men off the dribble, defenders are forced to help out and leave their assignments open on the perimeter.
Lin and Harden are capable of playing on or off the ball, so they are interchangeable playing on the perimeter.
Here we see a spread offense, with Harden the primary ball-handler. He attacks Jason Kidd off the bounce, who is unable to stay with him laterally, forcing Ronnie Brewer to come over and help:
Considering the ball moves faster than a defensive rotation, Lin is left with an open lane just two passes later.
The lane was all created by Harden's drive and dish to Chandler Parsons, whose ability to stretch the floor forces Carmelo Anthony to run over and help, leaving Jeremy Lin all alone on the wing:
It's simple drive-and-dish basketball. Here's video of the play:
The Rockets attacked the rim at will, and they did it with running starts.
James Harden took 16 foul shots and didn't miss once. Houston scored 18 more points in the paint than the Knicks, whose perimeter defense had more leaks than my crumbling basement ceiling.
Here's an example of Harden attacking right off the defensive rebound. His aggressiveness doesn't allow the Knicks to set up their defense, and it gets him an easy trip to the foul line early in the game:
With both Jeremy Lin and James Harden great at attacking the rim, pushing the tempo off defensive rebounds should keep the pressure on and help them get the easy baskets they wouldn't normally get in half-court sets.
It's the right strategy for the Rockets, who can't overwhelm opponents with frontcourt talent.
With Lin and Harden running the show, the Rockets are going to beat some teams they have no business beating. It may not be a championship formula, but that's not the realistic short-term goal when the two main offensive cogs are 23 and 24 years old.
The Rockets roster is incomplete, but by playing to their strengths, they'll put themselves in the best position to win games, regardless of their competition.
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