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5 key factors behind Rockets stunning win streak

Rockets

For a team as young and inexperienced as the Houston Rockets, a four-game winning streak is a pretty big deal. It’s an even bigger deal when it follows a 15-game losing streak. Houston has also managed to turn their biggest weakness (27th in Offensive RTG) into their biggest strength (9th in Offensive RTG over last four games). It’s anyone’s best guess how long it will last, but the Rockets are truly playing awesome basketball right now.

Let’s dig into how it’s happening.

1. Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks become the shooters Houston desperately needed

 

This is the second consecutive season the Rockets have been a bottom ten three-point percentage team and for an organization notoriously known for launching threes at high volume, this is pretty damaging to their offense. They have desperately needed good shooting to come from somewhere other than Eric Gordon and Christian Wood and it looks like they’ve found it. Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks have done an incredible job since they joined the main playing group.

Garrison Mathews (last 4 games):

16.3 points per game

51.6% three-point shooting on 7.8 attempts

Armoni Brooks (last 4 games):

11.8 points per game

41.9% three-point shooting on 7.8 attempts

2. Two-big lineups are gone (for now)

It’s still unknown what was going through Houston’s mind when they decided to start the season with a frontcourt of Christian Wood and Daniel Theis. Perhaps the thinking was that Houston wanted to pair Wood with a grittier defensive center. However, the floor spacing issues this lineup provides outweigh any benefits the Rockets thought they were getting with this lineup. Wood and Theis have been awful as a pairing on the floor together.

Christian Wood and Daniel Theis lineups:

Offensive RTG: 86.7

Defensive RTG: 108.1

Net RTG: -21.5

The lineups haven’t been much better with Alperen Sengun playing next to Wood either.

Alperen Sengun and Christian Wood lineups:

Offensive RTG: 99.1

Defensive RTG: 111.2

Net RTG -12.1

This forced head coach Stephen Silas to play better spaced lineups and it’s done wonders for their offense. Sengun has seen a dip in his playing time though and Theis fell out of the rotation until Wednesday night against the Thunder.

3. Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate play their correct positions

While I understand the asset management play of acquiring someone like Daniel Theis, it never made sense from a basketball perspective. The Rockets had just drafted two big man and already had incumbent center Christian Wood to worry about. This put Houston in the awkward position of having to start two traditional big men next to each other, making for terrible floor spacing. The Rockets are at their best when Christian Wood is one of the most dominant roll men in the NBA at the center position. The same could be said for Jae’Sean Tate playing power forward as it hides his poor three-point shooting a little bit and lets him do clean-up duty in the paint.

4. Jalen Green has been absent

The Rockets are 20.8 points per 100 possessions worse when Jalen Green has been on the court this season. On the flip side, they’ve been 8.2 points per 100 possession better when Green has been on the bench this season. That’s a massive 29 points per 100 possession swing and it stems from how much of a project he is right now. The Rockets are significantly worse on offense and defense when he plays and that aligns with the eye test.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Green is going to be more of a long-term project than a ready-made Rookie of the Year type talent for Houston. Due of his inefficient shooting, turnover woes, and lack of strength, the Rockets are just worse off when he plays. And this applies to both ends of the floor. He’s so important towards Houstons’ future that he’s obviously going to still have a big role when he returns, but it shouldn’t strike anyone as surprising that the team is better without him right now.

5. Kevin Porter Jr. finding his groove as a passer

Ever since Kevin Porter Jr. returned from injury, he’s been a much better floor general for the Rockets. The shooting efficiency woes are still present with Porter Jr., but he’s made strides with the way he’s found guys on the perimeter and in the paint. Over these past four games, he’s averaging 8.3 assists per game and 3.8 turnovers (down from 4.1 on the season). His pick and roll chemistry with Christian Wood has been particularly strong in this stretch.

The Rockets will attempt to increase their winning streak to five games against the Orlando Magic on Friday.