Seeking consistency, Rockets visit confident Pacers
With the likes of James Harden, John Wall and Eric Gordon on their roster, the Houston Rockets will first and foremost be known for what they generate offensively on a game-by-game basis.
But if the Rockets are to distinguish themselves from a crowded field of Western Conference contenders, they must make headway defensively. This season remains in its infancy, but Houston has struggled to muster a defensive identity and any corresponding success.
The Dallas Mavericks shredded the Rockets' defense on Monday at Houston Toyota Center, rolling to a 113-100 victory in the second half of a back-to-back. Wednesday, the Rockets will travel to face the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, seeking continuity on both ends of the court.
The Rockets have shown flashes of defensive potential, amassing 10 blocked shots and 10 steals in their 102-94 home win over the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 2. That defensive performance fueled their offense in spurts, yielding an occasionally hastier pace offensively.
"We have to do things to be disruptive on the defensive end, whether it's be a little bit more aggressive or rebound the ball so we can get out and run," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. "Everybody wants to play faster, everybody wants to play with more pace. We're not alone in that but we have to do certain things in order for that to happen."
The Rockets could certainly stand to rebound better -- they entered Tuesday ranked 29th in defensive rebound percentage. But how they corral opponents defensively yields an even greater influence on positive results. The Rockets say they accept that challenge.
"It's definitely a mindset," Rockets forward David Nwaba said. "You've got to take pride on the defensive end. And just go over film and what we need to work on. That's what we're going to do (Wednesday)."
The Pacers raved about the contributions of first-year coach Nate Bjorkgren following their dramatic comeback against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. Indiana trailed by six points inside the final 30 seconds yet managed to force overtime, when they earned a 118-116 victory.
"First and foremost, Coach got all the fight in the world," Pacers guard Victor Oladipo said. "The whole time down the stretch, with a minute left, with 38 seconds left, he was telling us 'it's not over, it's not over.' That's all he kept screaming from the sideline. We believed that, and we made something happen down the stretch."
Through seven games, the Pacers rank in or near the top 10 in both offensive (sixth) and defensive (11th) efficiency rating, annually one telltale sign of a championship contender. The early results under Bjorkgren speak volumes.
"We've got one of the best coaches in the league if not the best," Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "I'm going to continue to say that during the season and make sure people understand how well-coached we are.
"Nate puts everybody in a position to play their game and show their strengths."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 6, 2021