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The Rockets are unpredictable, but if they can get off and running, they could be dangerous in the playoffs.
James Harden and the rest of the Houston Rockets' run-and-gun offense is a blast to watch, but that same offense makes the squad one of the most hit-or-miss teams in the league.
Like the New York Knicks, the Rockets are set to easily break the record for three pointers in a season. They've launched 2,248 shots from deep (28.8 per game)—just three shots shy of what the Knicks have done. And, like the Knicks, the team's defense lies on the shoulders of a rim-protecting big man (Tyson Chandler for New York, Omer Asik for Houston).
What separates the two teams is pace of play. The Rockets play the fastest brand of basketball in the league, whereas the Knicks rank near the bottom (per Basketball-Reference). Harden himself told ESPN's Beckley Mason:
In order for us to have a chance in any game, we can't slow the ball up and try to play half court. We have to impose our will and do what we do.
That's a big problem in the playoffs, where pace of play tends to slow significantly. Last year, the average pace dropped from 91 possessions per game in the regular season to 89 possessions per game in the playoffs. The year previous, the average dropped from 92 to 88 average possessions—a big decrease for teams that love to get out and run (per Basketball-Reference).
The kicker for the Rockets—and what makes them truly unpredictable in these playoffs—is that their two most likely opponents also love to run. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder rank seventh and eighth respectively in pace and are more than willing to get into a track meet. The Rockets have a losing record against the pair (1-3 and 1-2, respectively), but they won their last match-up against each team and can score with the best of them.
Houston is young, and when they're not hitting threes or getting out in transition, they can look really awful. But if they get San Antonio or OKC to run with them, we could be in for some fun.