On his 33rd birthday, Chris Paul showed in game four against the Utah Jazz just what he brings to the Houston Rockets, the midrange game. CP is a wizard when it comes to the midrange game, something that has been lacking in the Rockets offensive toolbox for a few years.
The Rockets philosophy in seasons past has been either a three or layup no midrange
shots, and it was backed up with analytics. This philosophy has unleashed one of the most devastating offenses the NBA has seen in years. It wasn’t uncommon for the Rockets to fire off 40 and even at times 50 three-point attempts in a game. This has been a great game plan until they’ve run into a team that can take away the three ball away and can protect the rim like the San Antonio Spurs did in the playoffs in 2017.
The Spurs did a fantastic job dismantling the Rockets in the playoffs in 2017, they put together a game plan that dared the Rockets to play the midrange game and it worked. Even when James Harden had a big man switched onto him, they would pressure him into either difficult three-point attempt or when he drove into the lane he faced big men that were daring him to finish over him.
The shot chart from the series tells the tale; it is proliferated with attempts all across the three-point line and at the rim with varying results. A big part of game planning in the playoffs comes down to what shots can you leave with your opponent taking because you can’t take away everything. When a team tries to take away everything they give everything up and end up losing. The Spurs were content on giving up the midrange shot since the Rockets were so conditioned to not take those shots and hunt for layups and threes. It worked and got them past the Rockets in six games.
Enter in CP, the wizard of the midrange. Besides the added benefit of having a secondary playmaker on the floor with Harden, CP brings with him his ability to consistently get to and knock down midrange shots. It was on full display in game four against the Jazz. Time and time again he was able to get to the elbow area and hit the shots the Rockets generally were opposed to last season. It didn’t matter if he got a big switched onto him or he was taking a guard as soon as he had enough airspace he let that thing fly to the tune of 11-17 from two-point range.
The Rockets finished game four with 12 midrange points a vast difference to the two they had in game five against the Spurs last season. Paul took what the defense gave him and made them pay. It even prompted this tweet from the Rockets GM Darryl Morey.
There is no question analytically teams should shoot more threes, that is not a point to argue. However being able to make teams pay by hitting midrange jumpers in the playoffs when teams focus on taking away layups and threes is the tip of the sword. My friend at Positive Residual broke it down in this tweet thread.
The addition of Chris Paul to the Rockets really makes their offense multi-dimensional and not just reliant the threes or layups. It opens the door to the midrange when he has it going from there like in game four, teams have to adjust their defense and that will open more three ball opportunities and layups. Chris Paul’s midrange wizardry is something the Golden State Warriors will have to prepare for in the long-awaited Conference Finals we are a few games away from.
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- All Stats and Shot charts are from NBA.com/stats
- Chris Paul Photo Credit – Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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