How the Los Angeles Lakers can exploit the Rockets’ tendencies

Los Angeles Lakers(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

Tendency Number Four: Houston’s bombardment from three-point range

Let’s begin this section by taking a quick inventory. According to this article, the Rockets defend poorly at the rim, they switch into disadvantageous situations, they struggle on the glass, and they don’t capitalize in transition at an elite level.

So, if all that is true, how did they make it this far, all the way to the West’s final four?

Well, it all comes down to the team’s most definitive tendency of all of — giving Harden the ball and surrounding him with three-point shooters.

Historically speaking, the Mike D’Antoni Rockets are the most prolific three-point shooting team of all time, taking and making more threes in a regular-season than any team ever.

But somehow, in these playoffs, Houston has surpassed even its own lofty standard, shooting an unfathomably high 51 three-point attempts per game, obliterating all prior records.

Every single player on the team, save Westbrook, is a dangerous shooter from distance, making Houston’s offense incredibly dangerous.

Much in the same way LeBron commands a help defender every time he drives, Harden cannot be guarded with just one person, and his unparalleled ability to attack in isolation forces opponents to rotate and/or hedge at an abnormal rate.

Houston, of course, is well aware of this fact, and the coaching staff deploys its players accordingly, placing at least three spot-up shooters around Harden at all times.

If the opposing forward helps from Tucker in the corner, it’s a wide-open three. If the center sags off of Jeff Green above the break, same result. Nobody on the Rockets, apart from Westbrook, can be left open, not even the so-called “bigs.”

So given this devastating combination of Harden and shooting, what must the Lakers do?

Well, to be frank, they better hope for misses. Other than that, the most glaring adjustment available to Vogel is playing Davis at center every time Harden is in the game.

Although McGee and Howard have proven themselves to be useful players all year, neither has the foot speed to hedge on Harden and then recover out to shooters. Only Davis brings that ability.

Similarly, neither of the two traditional big men are well-suited to switch out onto perimeter ball-handlers. Harden, Westbrook, Rivers, and Eric Gordon would eat them alive. Even the typically stagnate Covington, House, and Green would suddenly find themselves advantaged off-the-dribble, giving Houston a bevy of attacking options.

With Davis or even LeBron at center, those options would disappear, and Houston would fail at its founding objective: to play the opposition’s dominant big man off of the floor by bombing threes.

Instead, in an ironic twist, Houston might end up unlocking the Lakers’ most dominant interior presence yet.

To illustrate, in regular-season lineups with Davis at center surrounded by LeBron, Green, Kuzma, and Caldwell-Pope, the Los Angeles Lakers were a sterling +26 points per 100 possessions.

Next. The mistake to avoid with bringing Rondo back. dark

That’s not great news for the Houston Rockets.