The Houston Rockets systematically picked apart the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series.
James Harden and company were simply unstoppable on offense, and while the Spurs offense sputtered throughout the game, the Rockets' offense was out of this world. Head coach Mike D'Antoni had his team playing arguably the best basketball of the playoffs thus far.
Houston's rise has been meteoric, and despite the departure of Dwight Howard, the Rockets are thriving unlike they have in years. That's clearly in thanks to Harden's brilliance, but D'Antoni's offensive philosophies have been a match made in hoops heaven for the franchise.
The Rockets led the NBA in three-point attempts and three-pointers made through the season, sinking 1181 of the 3306 total shots they took from behind the arc. That's an insane number of three-point attempts, averaging a whopping 40.3 threes per game through 82 outings.
That's nothing compared to the 50 three-pointers they attempted against the Spurs in Game 1, connecting on a franchise-record 22 of them. By comparison, the Spurs only put up 29 three-point shots (9-of-29), just seven more attempts than the Rockets converted.
Coach D'Antoni is known for his free-wheeling offensive ideals, and there's now no denying how deadly the Rockets are because of it. Houston keys in on attempting only the most efficient shots possible, and their shot chart from Game 1 is the most extreme example yet:
The Rockets almost completely cut mid-range jumpers out of their diet, scoring only after getting inside to the paint, drawing contact to get to the free-throw line or launching a three-pointer. It worked wonders, and should serve as a proof of D'Antoni's concepts going forward.
Not that there should have been much doubt. D'Antoni was the architect behind the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns, using the brilliance of Steve Nash to lead the way. It's now Harden running the show for D'Antoni, who offered up a great explanation of their strategy.
"Just taking what the defense gives us. Last series (against Oklahoma City) was a more grind-it-out. We weren't really making a lot of 3s. We had to figure a way to get paint points and in this series so far they gave opportunities to shoot 3s," Harden said after Game 1.
Houston is the darling team that's proving believers in analytics right one playoff victory at a time. Analysts have been pointing out that mid-range jumpers are one of the most inefficient possessions in basketball, and clearly D'Antoni and the Rockets are in full agreement.