• Brian L. Barefield

Small Giants: Rockets go on winning streak using small ball lineup.

Miami DJ’s and producers are famously known for speeding up the beat of a record to make great dance music. In hip-hop it was the Luther Campbell (Uncle Luke) era that brought attention to the beat that caused people to rush to the dance floor to shake their butts to a beat that was ramped up a notch to get that heart racing.

I guess Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni must have some of that Florida music saved to his Apple music account and plays it during practice because his team has a brand-new identity and the rapid pace at which they are playing are causing their opponents to scramble just to keep up.

Houston is currently on a three-game winning streak after defeating divisional foe, Dallas Mavericks, rookie sensation Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Charlotte Hornents. During that time the Rockets have found their groove by default.

Former center Clint Capela (Traded to Atlanta on Tuesday) went down with a heel injury on January 29th and that forced Houston to play small ball against the Dallas Mavericks with forward Danuel House Jr. being the tallest player on the court at 6’6. That lineup was the smallest put on a court since 1963.

“The underline thing is we are just trying to open up the lane for Russ (Westbrook) and James (Harden) to get to the rim, said head coach Mike D’Antoni about the small ball lineup. “I have confidence in it. We play hard and we pay attention to details.”

The details have really stood out during this current winning streak:

Houston has hit 20-plus three-pointers in two of the last three games after not doing so in 22 straight which is the longest streak under D’Antoni.

Over the past three games, the Rockets have committed a total of 20 turnovers while recording 36 steals. They have forced 57 turnovers which have resulted in 63 points for Houston.

Houston has recorded 10-plus steals in the last three games.

What we are seeing is the manifestation of what D’Antoni has always wanted. A faster paced game with shots going up at a rapid pace. Houston’s “Small Ball” lineup will be tested within the next four games that includes opponents such as the Los Angeles Lakers who have three 7’0 big man (Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard) who loves to crash the boards and the Utah Jazz who have the reigning 2018 Defensive Player of The Year in center Rudy Gobert who is averaging 14.5 rebounds per game.

That will leave newly acquired Robert Covington at 6’8 playing center from time to time along with forward P.J. Tucker. Those two defensive minded individuals will have to do the dirty work for the Rockets. If they stick to the game plan of switching everything on the defensive end they should be just fine.

With the 2020 NBA All-Star break coming up in less than a week, Houston’s coaches will have time to tweak the system and make a strong push towards the playoffs.

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