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News » Emphasis on defense remains Trademark of team will fuel offensive sprints

Emphasis on defense remains Trademark of team will fuel offensive sprints

Emphasis on defense remains Trademark of team will fuel offensive sprints BY TRADITION

For the seventh straight season, the Rockets were among the top 10 in scoring defense. Here's how they fared in 2008-09:

Team Points/game

1. Cavaliers 91.4

2. Spurs 93.3

3. Celtics 93.4

4. Trail Blazers 94.1

5. Hornets 94.3

6. Magic 94.4

7. Rockets * 94.4

8. Pistons 94.7

9. Bobcats 94.9

10. Hawks 96.5

* - Despite having the same average, the Magic allowed five fewer total points than the Rockets .

For 15 minutes of a public scrimmage, the music blared, fans screamed, and the Rockets flew around the court to launch 3s and bend rims.

The coaches for the day, Shane Battier and Tracy McGrady, did nothing that approximated coaching. The 15 players who sprinted from end to end, scored and scored and never did anything that might be confused for defense.

They better have enjoyed it. That ends today.

For all the emphasis on retooling their offense and pressing its accelerator, the Rockets insist they cannot let the temptation of a high-speed approach threaten their devotion to their long-stingy defense.

Time to adjust

Saturday's show might have introduced the latest edition of the Rockets to 3,000 or so of their fans. Now the Rockets will get reacquainted with themselves.

"You start getting relaxed, just worry about pushing the ball and playing offense," coach Rick Adelman said. "We can't do that. We've been looking at it. We're really going to have to start hammering it down. Starting (today), we're going to see if we can't get better in those areas."

The Rockets have been proud of their place among the NBA's best defensive teams, and that strength has carried them through the short-handed stretches in the past two seasons. The Rockets were seventh in the NBA in points allowed last season, fifth in opposing field-goal percentage.

The goal this season is for the change in the offense to not lead to a slip in the defense. Better still, they would like to turn defense into offense, a particularly tough challenge this week when going against the defensive powerhouses of the Spurs, Celtics and Magic

"We're not going to run if we don't defend," Adelman said. "If we don't make stops, you can't keep taking it out of the net and try to run. Teams in our league are too well-coached, and they're going to get back, and they're going to stop you. In order to get into the open court, we're going to have to make stops and rebound the ball."

With little shot-blocking at the rim, the Rockets will likely not have the luxury of being a gambling defensive team, seeking to turn steals into breaks. They have big men - especially Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes - who take chances, but that does not lead to fast breaks.

That quickness could allow them to more often trap on pick-and-rolls, potentially forcing turnovers. But the key is to do what has worked.

Success breeds success

"Our defenses over the past couple years have been our trademark," Hayes said. "That's what helped us win a lot of games. Our defense always kept us in the games. With Yao (Ming) not in there and Tracy out until November, we're going to have to find ways to generate points, and one of the best ways is in transition, going from defense to offense.

"If you're going to be a running team, it's a whole lot easier to run after a stop versus taking the ball out of the net. We have to defend first."

For all that has changed, the Rockets said that attitude cannot. If anything, the defense might be more important than ever.

"They were one of the best in the league," Trevor Ariza said of the Rockets defense he faced with the Lakers. "They didn't give up too much - nothing easy, that's for sure. In order for us to win, we have to do that and more.

"We just have to be mentally tough to do that. It's going to be hard on our bodies because we're going to try to get up and down and still get stops. But if we want to win, that's what we've got to do."

For one day at Toyota Center, Kyle Lowry could toss alley-oop passes to himself, Scola could launch 3s, and half a Rockets team could win that way.

But when the Rockets reconvene today, they will have to be about defense again, perhaps more than ever.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 6, 2009


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