The Houston Rockets cruised to the NBA’s best regular season record, but appear to be out of sorts in the playoffs, something head coach Mike D’Antoni had feared would happen.
D’Antoni says his squad hasn’t played particulary well in the past two months.
Rockets offensive rating in regular season: 112.2
Down stretch after clinching top seed: 102.3
Playoffs so far: 106.0
Mike D’Antoni: “That’s why I was worried the whole time about resting guys, getting out of rhythm.” https://t.co/YaiLuEMDJ2
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 22, 2018
James Harden thinks it all comes down to defensive play for Houston.
“I’d say [the past] couple months we haven’t played really well,” D’Antoni said before Sunday’s practice, a day after a 121-105 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that trimmed the Rockets’ series lead to 2-1. “That’s why I was worried the whole time about resting guys, doing this, getting out of rhythm. [People say], ‘It doesn’t really mean a whole lot.’ Ehhhh, it does.
“Anyway, we are where we are. We’ll be fine. We’ll be OK.”
Houston hasn’t been able to flip the switch during the playoffs. The Rockets are averaging 106 points per 100 possessions during the first-round series, a mediocre number.
“It’s been a long time,” Rockets superstar James Harden said of the team being in a good rhythm. “It’s been a long time, but tomorrow is the perfect opportunity for it.”
Harden shifted the focus to defense when asked how the Rockets can regain their offensive rhythm in the middle of a playoff series.
“It’s pretty simple: play hard the entire game,” Harden said. “Shots are going to be made, shots are going to be missed, but I think defensively as long as our focus level is there every possession, it doesn’t matter about the offense. Defensively, we’ll be good enough.”