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Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker explain Houston’s defensive problems

Rockets

The Houston Rockets have faced a defensive nightmare so far this season, allowing teams to walk over them and score at will. The latest was a 20-point loss to the L.A. Clippers, a runback that was supposed to spell a different result with Chris Paul back in the lineup. Paul and fellow defensive hound P.J. Tucker explained where these woes have originated through the early stretch of the 2018-19 season.

The Rockets have kept a nearly-identical defensive system as last season, despite boasting different personnel, and while coach Mike D’Antoni insists that switching every matchup is not the reason for their flaws, Tucker echoes that same sentiment.

“It’s all the little things,” said Tucker, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “It’s not scheme. It’s really, really small things, the mental parts at different times. It’s new. To a lot of guys, it’s new, trying to figure out how we’re playing. Some guys haven’t played like that. I think we’re going in the right direction. Just keep working.”

Houston has been exposed early this season, as teams have figured out how to deal with their constant switching, taking advantage of favorable matchups and exploiting them in game situations. The Rockets have been helpless when guards get caught on mismatches with big men and smaller guards have been forced to hack bigger opponents early, causing the headache of early foul trouble.

“Some of it’s self-inflicted,” said Paul. “Some of them, we’ve just been a little too overaggressive and we got to adjust to the way the refs are calling it early in the game. We put teams in the bonus too early. We just have to be better.”

“One of the simple reasons they’re scoring is we foul so many times when we have them stopped and we give them two points,” said D’Antoni. “If we just clean that up it’s 10 points. We bailed them out so many times, we’re just not sharp on it.”

Without their best player in James Harden, still out with a hamstring injury, the Rockets will be forced to clean it up rather quickly before falling deeper in an ultra-competitive Western Conference, already facing a 1-4 hole early in the campaign.