On Tap: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  April 2, 2006

How happy is ABC? Do you think, before the season when they put this game on the schedule, they thought they’d have the 7th and 11th seeds in the West?

Moneyhoops comes to Houston. The Rockets may be the most disappointing team in the NBA this season so you knew there would be changes, and they have made them in the front office — the Rockets have tabbed Daryl Morey as their new GM. He comes from MIT and the Celtics, where he crunched the stats for the C’s. And not just the usual stats, Morey (like myself) uses many of the “new stats” that track efficiency, stats by possessions and others that give, in my opinion, a more accurate picture of a team and a player.

Tom Z. over at Sactown Royalty was on this fast and has a little primer on Morey (and came up with the clever moneyhoops term). Morey has done some good work, and the Celtics have built a nice, young core — although Jeff at Celtics Blog points out Morey also defended the Brian Scalabrine pick up. Other teams, the Sonics, Spurs, Mavs and others, have used advanced statistics in one way or another, but this is the biggest step forward for this little movement so far. I have to say I am going to be rooting for him to do well, but I’ll add that basketball is such an interactive team sport that stats alone can’t be the answer. I’m not sure it is in baseball, but there the universe is a lot easier to define because most of the action is around the plate (pitcher and hitter stats). With hoops it takes more of the classic scouting to do the job right. That said, the right statistics can go along way to help with that job.

Yao vs. Kwame: This is really going to be the big defensive match up for the Lakers — in the last 10 games Yao is scoring 27.1 points per game on 62.8% true shooting percentage and is pulling down 10.7 boards per game. His foot is finally healthy and it shows.

However, Yao plays to Kwame’s strengths — on the block where Kwame can use is strength advantage to keep Yao out of positions he likes. Last time these two teams played back in February Chris Mihm was out so Kwame got the call and he held Yao to 14 points and a -12 for the game. If he can do that again, the Lakers win.

Other keys to the game: Without McGrady, and really even with him, the Rockets do not have anyone who can slow Kobe, so this could be a big game for him. Last time these two played Kobe had a game high 32 and was +18, also the best on the court.

Without McGrady, the Rockets have been getting better play from Rafer Alston, although he has shot just 46.1% (eFG%) in the last 10 games, and Luther Head. However, the Rockets backcourt defense has been weak, so not only Kobe but also Smush could have a big night.

Finally, expect a slow pace as the Rockets are the 5th slowest team in the NBA this season.