Houston Rockets: Team needs to pare down the isolation plays

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 29: James Harden /

The Houston Rockets have embarked on a five-game losing streak after winning 14 games in a row, a league record.  The main reason why they aren’t winning games is because they aren’t moving the ball like they have in past in favor of isolation plays.  Here’s why this needs to stop.

The losses for the Houston Rockets are starting to pile up!  I’d never thought I would see this during the 2017-18 season, especially with the incredible start that these guys have had.  But what’s happening in front of our eyes is a reality and Mike D’Antoni and his staff have to do something quick to stop the bleeding.

By all means, I’m not pushing the panic button but something considerable has to be done before we get to the point.  Trust me — we’ve got a long way to go before that.  But I’ve noticed a peculiar thing.

What is it that I’m talking about?  The Houston Rockets aren’t moving the ball around as well as they were at the beginning of the season and even dating back to last year.  This particular attribute was one of the things that set them apart from the rest of the competition other than the Golden State Warriors and they’re not doing it.

The offense should be predicated on quick ball movement with plenty of possessions to nail as many threes as possible to keep the competition at bay.  But that’s not happening.  The possession count is still high, the Houston Rockets are 8th in PACE, averaging 101.4 possessions per game but we’re slipping in assist ratio.

In a category that they were a Top 10 team in for most of last season as well as going into this one, this mindset is becoming close to milk-carton status.  The Houston Rockets have slipped to 19th in assist ratio with 16.6 percent of their possessions ending with an assist.  This is down from them being 8th in 2016-17 at 18.1 percent.  I know a 1.5 percent drop may sound like a minute amount but it could be make it break if we win games because we’re not finding the open man to keep the scoring rate up high to keep our opponents on their heels.

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In addition, another thing I’ve noticed is that we’re running too many isolation plays, particularly for James Harden.  It’s okay to run these occasionally when the situation warrants but not a regular basis as they have been as of late.  I’m positive D’Antoni hasn’t ignored the fact that his team leads the league in points per possession off isolation plays — the team is hovering at about 1.15 — to which there’s not a team that’s even close to this stat.

But as much it’s something they do so well, it can certainly be a detriment to why this five-game losing streak in the first place.  There have been too many situations where the Houston Rockets were in situations they shouldn’t have been in such as when they gave way to a 26-point lead over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.  We just haven’t been accustomed to that this season but all that’s cringe-worthy is playing out in high-definition on our television sets.

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If they can tweak and correct both of those aforementioned characteristics of this team — and fast — we’ll be back in the pilot’s seat of this league before we know it but it’s going to take a collaborative effort as well those who are willing to commit to these changes.

We’ll have to see about this — go Rockets.