The Houston Rockets are playing inspiring basketball this season as they currently sit 3rd in a tough Western Conference at 43-19. Gone are the days where they are struggling to make the playoffs and gone are the days where they have solely relied on James Harden and praying that Dwight Howard is healthy going into the home stretch.
While the Rockets players are beaming with pride, one person may not be. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. The reason being, he’s been here before. More than once. Remember those Phoenix Suns teams that were led by Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion? Yes, those same Run-n-Gun squads that won 50+ games 4 of his 5 years as coach. His teams can score, as the Rockets are 2nd the NBA in scoring but 24th in defense.
The regular season is about fun, get the shots up and try to get back on defense. This has been the D’Antoni way since he began his coaching career but will there ever be a team that turns his style of play into a Championship? So far, the Rockets are on pace to match the Suns in terms of regular season success but it’s the playoff that will determine just how important scoring is. Harden has never been known as a defender. However, on the offensive side of the ball, he’s on pace to win MVP with averages of 29 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds. But, what stands out the most is the help that he’s getting from his role players.
Patrick Beverley, who handles the PG duties has had a solid season with 10 points, five assists, six rebounds and two steals. Trevor Ariza is still the do-it-all specialist with averages of 12 points, six assists, and two steals. However, you cannot overlook the contribution of Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon either as they have each provided heroics over the course of this great run.
But, will it be enough?
When the playoffs start and teams start to buckle down on the defensive end and focus attention more toward Harden how will the team respond when Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard begin to get hot off a halfcourt set? Will another D’Antoni led team falter under the playoff pressure or will they continue to ride the regular season success?