Mike D’Antoni, are the Rockets playing faster? ‘Six seconds or less, baby’
In their season-opening loss to the Bucks, the Houston Rockets had 109 possessions, more than 10 possessions a game faster than they averaged last season (stats via NBA.com). It’s not just Russell Westbrook grabbing a rebound and pushing the ball out in transition (although that’s part of it), it’s also working early in the shot clock — just 14 percent the Rockets offense was in transition, which is right where Houston was last season (stats via Cleaning The Glass). The Rockets were just a little more efficient when then ran on Thursday.
Chris Paul, a guy who wants to slow the game down and survey the floor, is in Oklahoma City now, and the Rockets are running. You know Mike D’Antoni loves that, as he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
Mike D’Antoni on the Rockets’ pace with Russell Westbrook: “Six seconds or less, baby. We’re working on it.” Houston had 27 fast break points in the opener, matching their most in any game last season.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 25, 2019
Obviously, that’s a reference to the “seven seconds or less” Suns of D’Antoni and Steve Nash.
These Rockets will actually be faster than those Suns because the entire league is playing faster now (D’Antoni and those Suns revolutionized the game, but the pace they played at would have been the slowest in the league last season because they were the only team trying to run like that).
Can they win playing faster is another question. The Rockets are going to score points, as we saw against the Bucks, but can they get stops will be the big question. In crunch time opening night, with Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out, Houston still didn’t defend well enough, or score well enough, to get the win. There’s work to do, no matter how many seconds it takes to get off a shot.