3 takeaways from Rockets’ 120-116 victory over Bucks
The Houston Rockets managed to remain undefeated in the NBA bubble with another crazy win, this time toppling the Milwaukee Bucks in crunch time with a 120-116 win on Sunday.
While there was plenty of action to dissect from this game, these are the three major takeaways from this blockbuster showdown, which saw the Rockets erase a late eight-point deficit to steal the victory.
It seemed as if the Bucks were going to pull through with a monster night from Giannis Antetokounmpo, a strong shooting game from Khris Middleton, and a vintage performance from Brook Lopez. The trio combined for 86 of the 116 Bucks points, accounting for 74% of the offense.
Antetokounmpo went off for 36 points, 18 rebounds, and eight assists — a well-balanced outing that would get the W on most nights, but he fell short in the clutch with some questionable decision-making.
Middleton had a rough go of it down the stretch, despite finishing with a stout line overall: 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists. The marksman was 1-of-6 from deep in the fourth quarter, including a last-second prayer in hopes to tie the game.
Lopez was an X-factor offensively for the Bucks with Eric Bledsoe still out, turning the clock back to his days as a double-double threat. Surprisingly, none of his 23 points came via 3-pointers, but rather old-fashioned physical play on the boards and some timely finishes in the paint.
The trio’s sound outing was ultimately all for naught, as Russell Westbrook and company put the game away in the finishing moments.
Volume over accuracy
Ironically enough, the Rockets’ model of efficiency is predicated in inefficiency.
No NBA team attempts as many 3-pointers per game (44.6), and one would think that the eighth-worst 3-point shooting franchise (34.9%) would stop shooting them so often. However, poor acumen has never stopped a Daryl Morey team from going through with his vision.
Houston racked up a whopping 61 treys on Sunday, and it only took an eight-man rotation to let them fly. James Harden and P.J. Tucker combined to shoot 6-of-24 from distance.
The Rockets stayed true to their percentages, mustering a mere 34.4% from deep by making 21 of their 61 long-range shots. It certainly was about the only way they could hurt the Bucks, who had a massive size advantage over the small-ball Houston team.
Morey’s team thrives with that motto — if you knock on the door enough times, it will eventually open.
The Rockets could have built a house of bricks with their 40 misses, but they outscored the Bucks by 36 points from distance and another 10 points from the foul line. This, plus the 23 forced turnovers, helped Houston make up for a 65-36 shellacking on the boards and 60-18 disadvantage on points in the paint.
Not many can argue Moreyball doesn’t work after a result like this.
Rockets’ clutch defense
The Rockets seemed en route to a second defeat at the hands of the Bucks this season, but they made each of their late stops count to take this one home.
The Rockets aren’t shabby when it comes to defense, especially in the clutch. Just ask their 97.8 clutch defensive rating, which ranks third in the league.
Perhaps more notably, it was James Harden doing some of the heavy lifting down the stretch, taking on switches to guard fellow MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final moments of the game:
James Harden with some clutch late-game defense on Giannis pic.twitter.com/DRI5TxYjcr
— ESPN (@espn) August 3, 2020
Harden racked up six steals on the night, but it was this self-inflicted wound that ultimately sealed the Bucks’ fate:
Harden vs Giannis today. pic.twitter.com/wjCSb33wB4
— Alex . (@Dubs408) August 3, 2020
The Rockets made plays when it counted and walked away with an impressive victory, now 2-0 in the bubble as they tune up for the postseason. There was also a little history made, with Harden become the top lefty scorer in NBA history.
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