Since trading starting center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline and embracing the ultimate small-ball lineup, the Houston Rockets are 2-2. Despite their lack of traditional size, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried.
Small-ball #Rockets inviting post-up possessions with their group of “linebacker” defenders:
“We don’t have those long, tall guys, but we’re wide. …There will be some guys we have a hard time with, but that’s part of the game.” pic.twitter.com/owu4wzXmpm
— Michael Shapiro (@mshap2) February 12, 2020
In their four games with their new ‘linebacker defender’ lineup, the Rockets have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics with some hiccups along the way via the Phoenix Suns (albeit without Westbrook) and Utah Jazz.
The Rockets starting lineup Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Danuel House, Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker gives Houston an average starter height of just over 6-foot-5 with Covington being the tallest at 6-foot-7.
At the same time, and to D’Antoni’s point, the Rockets starters have size in other ways. Tucker is 245 pounds and Westbrook is the only starter under 210 pounds.
The Rockets’ small-ball lineup has allowed them to do what they do best: shoot the ball and draw fouls. In their 116-105 win against Boston on Tuesday, Houston had 37 made free throws compared to just 33 made field goals while also shooting an astounding 45 three-pointers in the win.
D’Antoni is without a doubt, a pioneer of the small-ball movement that has taken over the NBA in recent years. As the head coach of the ‘seven seconds or less’ Phoenix Suns in the early 2000s, D’Antoni employed the same sort of strategies — albeit not to the extent he does with Houston.
Regardless of what the rest of the NBA thinks, the Rockets have yet to lose with their new lineup and have beaten some of the league’s best teams.