Rockets first in first quarter scoring, last in fourth quarter scoring
The Houston Rockets score a lot of points. They are currently second in the league behind the Golden State Warriors, putting up 112.6 points per game. A good chunk of those points come in the first quarter where they average a league-leading 32.4 points while they are curiously last in fourth-quarter points at 22.8.
But as Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone points out, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for why they’re dead-last in fourth quarter scoring: they’re already up by so much that they don’t really need to score late in games.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone noted that the Rockets rank first in NBA in first-quarter scoring (32.4) and last in fourth-quarter scoring (22.8). "You know why that is? Because they’re up by 30 going into the fourth quarter. That’s the only reason."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 22, 2017
Malone’s pretty spot on with his assessment. Seven of the Rockets’ last eight wins have come by at least 15 points, which is quite the display of dominance.
Unsurprisingly, James Harden has been a major reason for the Rockets’ sizzling hot starts to games. Harden, the league’s leader in points (31.6) and assists (9.7), is putting up 10.4 points and 3.9 assists in first quarters, which are both the most in the league as well.
Curiously, Harden’s minutes remain unusually high despite their high frequency of blowouts. However, he’s likely not exerting quite as much effort during the latter stages of games since they’ve already done much of the hard work during the first quarter onwards.