Rockets Notes: Success keeps coming in threes

Rockets star James Harden seems like a new player this season.

When the Rockets are behind the 3-point line, they’re launching. And it’s working. Man, is it working.

The latest example came in Wednesday’s 122-103 blowout win over the Clippers. As ESPN chronicled, the Rockets attempted a whopping 52 threes for the game — and made 20 through three quarters.

“You don’t realize how many 3-pointers we’re taking because it’s so natural for the way we play,” said Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, who made six 3-pointers. “It’s fun basketball when you trust that the next guy is going to make the shot, and James [Harden] did a great job of making the right plays and getting us open.”

Harden’s game has admittedly become a lot more distribution-oriented under new coach Mike D’Antoni. He’s find the open man more often — and it just so happens the open man is typically standing behind the arc.

Harden is averaging a career-high 11.3 assists, and worse for opponents, is still way up there when it comes to score (28.8 ppg).

It’s all working, as the Rockets are 43-19 and in third place in the Western Conference. One of those wins was a biggie at Golden State, proving that Houston is a team that can no longer be brushed off as just a nice team that isn’t really going places.

This is a team with cohesion, and weapons — from Harden to Anderson to a reborn Eric Gordon.

“Houston is so hard to defend when they’re able to spread out a defense, take the extra pass and hit shots,” wrote Calvin Watkins of ESPN. “Defenses have to worry about Harden’s passing and shooting abilities. If defenses clog him down, he’s got shooters such as Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Louis Williams, Sam Dekker, Gordon and Anderson waiting for his passes.”

It will be interesting to see if how the Rockets face in the slower, more-deliberate pace of the postseason. But with the way things have gone so far, it should be tons of fun watching them along the way.

ROCKETS NOTES

The addition of Williams, obtained in a trade-deadline deal with the Lakers, has gone seamlessly so far, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle. “We’re getting fairly set with the rotation,” D’Antoni said. “I’m not one to tinker too much. Going down the stretch, the last three or four minutes, it could change on a game-to-game basis.” (Full report.)

One area in which the Rockets do want to improve: Rebounding. That’s not always easy when you implement so many small lineups. But the Rockets have no choice, according to Harden in the Houston Chronicle. “We’re going to have to,” he said. “We’re going to have to battle and fight and just be a little more tenacious going for the boards.” (Full report.)

Harden is this week’s Sports Illustrated cover story, and is profiled by talented NBA feature writer Lee Jenkins. Read it here.