The Rockets held the defending champion Nuggets to 86 points, setting a record for the lowest point loss of the season. After this campaign, the Rockets’ points loss dropped to 106.8 points per 100 possessions, and their defensive efficiency surpassed the Celtics and Timberwolves to temporarily rise to first place in the league, tied with the Magic.
You know, the Rockets lost 118.6 points per 100 possessions last season, ranking 29th in the league, only slightly better than the Spurs. That season, the Rockets allowed less than 100 points in only 6 of 82 games. After 14 games this season, the Rockets have already allowed less than 100 points in 5 games.
After the game was played one month before the season, the “Rockets defensive transformation” was one of the biggest surprises in the league. Others’ progress is a step-by-step progress, and the Rockets soared into the sky. The arrival of veterans such as VanVleet and Dillon Brooks and Udoka’s coaching have brought about earth-shaking changes to the Rockets.
In April 2023, Rockets general manager Stone shouted the declaration of “win the next stage and rush to the championship”, and soon the Rockets hired Udoka as the coach. At that time, Uduka had been out of work for a year due to an off-court incident, but Uduka’s experience in leading the Celtics to play the league’s strongest defense in the 2021-22 season fascinated the Rockets management.
Uduka left a deep impression on Stone during the interview. He issued a military order saying that he could change the Rockets’ poor defense, provided that It is the management that introduces defensively aggressive guards, tall wings, and versatile insiders.
According to subsequent excavations by “Sports Illustrated” and other media, Uduka had a candidate in mind during the interview.
An aggressive defender? For four consecutive seasons, VanVleet ranked among the top three in the league in the number of possessions destroyed by opponents per game, and ranked first in two of them. VanVleet was Uduka’s first choice. VanVleet sucksUduka’s traits also include his ability to play without the ball and his ability to control mistakes.
Tall wing? Uduka’s first choice was Dillon, who was kicked out by the Grizzlies. He spent a lot of time studying Dillon. Although Dillon is not particularly tall at 1.98 meters tall, Uduka is satisfied with Dillon’s will, defensive willingness, defensive flexibility and ability. He believes that Dillon’s defensive attitude can infect the entire team.
All-round insider? Udoka’s original first choice was Brook Lopez, but unfortunately Lopez chose to stay with the Bucks. The Rockets used the remaining space to introduce Jeff Green and Landale.
After the configuration was in place, Uduka began the new version of the rocket modification project. On the first day of the new season’s training camp, Uduka elaborated on the concept of “improving defense.” He used data to spur his disciples: “Your defense has been terrible in the past few years, with multiple defensive data rankings ranging from 25th to 28th. .”
The system Uduka came up with was switching defense. This was his signature during his time with the Celtics, 2021-22 This season, the Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense rate reached 42%, the highest in the league. They limited their opponents’ penalty area shooting rate to 53.4%, ranking first in the league.
During the training camp, Uduka required every position to switch defenses, and Shen Jing, who moved slowly, was no exception. The goal set for the disciples is not to lose more than 30 points in a single quarter. In the preseason, the Rockets indeed followed the route of unlimited defense changes. When the opponent targeted Shen Jing in a pick-and-roll, Shen Jing’s defense proportion was extremely high.
However, after the start of the regular season, the Rockets were not so aggressive. Shen Jing still has a certain proportion of defense switches, but the proportion is not high. He mostly retreats to defend, but instead of retreating directly to the basket, he presses in the mid-range to give the defender time to squeeze through the screen and pursue the defense. Regardless of whether the opponent is playing a pick-and-roll against Shen Jing or facing a switch of defense and a strong attack, the Rockets’ corner and wing defenders have a lot of help to defend, forcing the opponent to pass the ball or make a strong shot in the mid-range.
Udoka’s defensive system has brought tangible benefits: the Rockets block more opponents from mid-range shots, making it difficult to get close to the basket, reducing It increases the opponent’s proportion of three-point shots and increases the opponent’s proportion of singles. In data analysis, singles and mid-range shots are synonymous with inefficiency.
This season, opponents have taken only 28.3% of their shots at the basket against the Rockets, ranking fourth in the league in this statistic. The Rockets limited their opponents to 42.3 points in the penalty area, ranking second in the league, 6.7 points less than last season. Opponents took 35.4% of their mid-range shots against the Rockets, and the Rockets ranked fourth in the league. The Rockets defended 33.8 ball-handling offenses per 100 possessions, ranking third in the league.
Uduka is very satisfied: “Usually, a large number of defensive changes can cause trouble for the opponent. We tried hard to force the opponent to beat us one-on-one and dismantled their established tactics. . Because we use a lot of switching defenses, the opponent has a lot of hasty shots with little offensive time left. Maintaining this pattern is very beneficial to us in improving our defensive data.”
In Uduka’s eyes, there are no bad defenders, only defenders who don’t work hard. As long as the players work hard, he is sure to unleash the defensive potential of his disciples. Although Jaylen Green, Shen Jing and others are not good at defense, in a mature system, Uduka puts these players in a better defensive position and become more reliable defenders.
The Rockets’ redistribution of offensive ball rights also directly affects the defense. Last season, a large amount of ball rights were concentrated in the hands of Kevin Porter Jr. and others. The Rockets averaged 16.2 turnovers per game, which ranked second in the league. They conceded an average of 20.5 points due to turnovers per game and allowed their opponents to score 17.5 fast break points per game, both in the league. Bottom.
The introduction of VanVleet, who is known for his calmness, and the fact that the offense is more centered around Shen Jing, the Rockets controlled the turnover to 12.3 The third fewest in the league, averaging only 6.8 fast break points per game, the fewest in the league.The 14.7 points allowed per turnover was the fourth-fewest in the league, and points are no longer lost so easily.
“Offense is the first step to switch offense and defense,” Uduka explained, “Good shot selection, protection A good ball is conducive to switching offense and defense. Last season, our offensive efficiency, assists, and turnovers were all 27th or worse in the league. Our crazy offense and many turnovers gave our opponents fast break opportunities. So, if we By executing an efficient offense, we can do a good job in switching offense and defense. We emphasize quickly returning to defense and dragging the game into a half-court battle.”
In the 2020-21 season, in Ste Under Vince’s coaching, the Celtics ranked 13th in defensive efficiency and ultimately ranked 7th in the Eastern Conference with 36 wins and 36 losses. The following season, Uduka took office and led the team to the league’s first defensive efficiency, and finally scored 51 wins and 31 losses, ranking second in the Eastern Conference.
Facts have proved that Uduka’s ability to coach defense is genuine. Uduka has brought his magic to the Rockets this season, and the Rockets’ defensive efficiency ranking has improved significantly. How much will their record improve?
During the training camp, Uduka once wrote down the three numbers “17”, “20” and “22”. This is The number of times the Rockets have won in the past three seasons, Uduka hopes these three numbers can inspire his disciples.
Last season, the Thunder won 40 games and ranked 10th in the Western Conference to enter the play-offs. The Rockets might as well start by winning 18 more games than last season. game, win 40” as a small goal.