Pistons host James Harden, Rockets in season opener

Essentials

  • Teams: Houston Rockets (0-0) at Detroit Pistons (0-0)
  • Date: October 31, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons will open the season tonight against a Houston Rockets team that just brought in James Harden via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This makes it a little difficult for head coach Lawrence Frank to prepare for Houston given that judging from the Rockets’ preseason play, they planned on featuring Kevin Martin in their offense; and he is now a member of the Thunder.

Harden’s game is vastly different from Martin’s and thus scouting the Rockets without actually seeing the new group play is essentially quite difficult; but not impossible.

During the preseason, the Rockets relied on ball movement around the perimeter to get the rock to Martin where he could do damage from 3-point range or by driving the ball to the basket. Mind you, Kevin McHale has other options this season with his new group of players.

Indeed, the Rockets now boast an intimidating presence at center in Omer Asik that may prove to be problematic for opponents this season. The former Bulls player is good at sealing his man on the interior and taking a hard dribble on the catch in the post and going to a soft right jump hook. He is also a good finisher on the catch, which makes him a dangerous pick-and-roll partner, but he also has the ability to catch the ball on the move and feed a teammate cutting to the basket — a skill he surely developed playing alongside Joakim Noah in Chicago — for an easy look at the rim.

It’s worth noting that Houston tends to forget about him for stretches, and thus might not be all that willing just yet to consistently go to him on offense. Also, Asik has probably never faced an NBA double-team, thus sending one at him may very well flummox him and result in turnovers.

Houston also loves to get out in transition when appropriate for easy buckets but the thing that seems to stand out offensively is their willingness to fire away from downtown. They are far from shy, and will shoot it from long-range without much fear. Should they catch fire, it could make things extremely difficult for their opponents.

As it pertains to Harden, he should thrive in the Rockets offense because of his ability to breakdown defenders off the bounce as well as his ability to successfully execute the pick-and-roll. Harden is a willing passer, which tends to keep defenses honest since they are unable to key in on his every move. This new dimension to the Rockets’ offense is a much needed one because Jeremy Lin has looked quite timid at times in the preseason; deferring far too much to teammates even when he’s been caught with the ball in his hands late in the shot clock.

One has to wonder if Lin is going out of his way to accommodate his teammates or whether his knee injury from last season is still holding him back.

On defense, the presence of Asik helps out the Rockets tremendously because of his ability to provide different coverages in the pick-and-roll.

Against quick penetrating guards, Asik usually stands back in the paint to make sure he does not get beat off the dribble and thus concedes the midrange jump shot; a spot where Brandon Knight will have to convert in order to force the big man to come out.

When Asik is involved in pick-and-roll scenarios involving perimeter players that Houston feels he can contain, he will either hedge or simply trap — especially on side pick-and-rolls — to get the ball out, which will get them in rotations. Thus, Stuckey and Prince should see a steady dose of this, and should be able to take advantage provided that Greg Monroe is aggressive offensively and that he continues to feed his timely passes to cutters as is customary for him.

In addition, Monroe might have some trouble posting up Asik since the Rockets’ starting center is quite strong and also good at contesting the shots of big men he is guarding.

With that said, if the Pistons can execute the offense and swing the ball side-to-side and then attack the defense off the bounce, it should lead to some good results as they will catch the Rockets rotating defensively and thus create high percentage shots at the rim.

Worth pointing out, the James Harden versus Tayshaun Prince matchup should be a fun one to watch. And one last note…

Enjoy the Pistons’ season home opener!

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