Houston Rockets

Five stats to know about the playoff Rockets

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James Harden (Getty Images)

The No. 1 seeded Rockets took care of business in the opening round of the playoffs, beating the No. 8 seed Timberwolves in five games.

There's room for improvement as they await the Jazz or Thunder in the second round - both teams that figure to be tougher matchups than the Timberwolves were - but Houston showed flashes of what they're capable of in each first round victory. James Harden stole the show in Game 1, Chris Paul picked up the slack in Game 2, they both got it rolling in Game 4 and the role players carried them in Game 5.

As they look to build on that success, let's take a look at five notable stats that could impact the rest of the Rockets' playoff run.

217: Number of 3-pointers the Rockets attempted in five games.

It works out to be an average of 43.4 3-pointers per game, up from the 42.3 3-pointers the Rockets averaged during the regular season. It was also more than double the Timberwolves' attempts, who have spent the entire season at the bottom of the league in threes hoisted.

What's scary about the Rockets is they didn't even shoot well from distance in the first round. (They converted 34.6 percent of those opportunities as a team, which would've put them ahead of the Lakers and Suns on the season). The Timberwolves actually shot better from the field than the Rockets in the series, but only a quarter of their overall attempts came from the perimeter compared to almost half for the Rockets.

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As a result, Houston had a higher effective field goal percentage - a stat that adjusts for 3-pointers being more valuable than 2-pointers - than Minnesota.

The Rockets proved that a rough stretch won't stop them from shooting 3-pointers, either. After missing 18 of their 25 attempts from the perimeter in the first half of Game 4, they went on to score 50 points in the third quarter on 9-for-14 shooting from 3-point range. Similar to the Warriors, their ability to heat up from there can completely change the course of a game in a matter of minutes.

4.2: Rockets' net rating when Chris Paul was on the court without James Harden.

Following their collapse in the playoffs last season, it became clear that Harden needed help. In acquiring Paul, Mike D'Antoni now has the luxury of having an All-NBA point guard run his offense at all times. According to NBA.com, Paul and Harden were on the court together for an average of 21.7 minutes per game against the Timberwolves. Paul played roughly 11 minutes without Harden, while Harden played 14 minutes without Paul, leaving less than a couple of minutes - usually when the game has already been decided - without either of them on the court.

Not only does it help the Rockets play to their full potential on offense for almost the entire game, it should help them keep Paul and Harden, who currently rank 22nd and 42nd respectively in minutes per game, fresh for the remainder of the playoffs.

1.18: Points per possession James Harden averaged in isolation.

With a total of 877 points, Harden single handedly outscored every team in the NBA in isolation during the regular season. He was incredibly efficient in those situations, too. Harden ranked near the 96th percentile with 1.22 points per isolation possession, putting him ahead of Kevin Durant (1.06), Kyrie Irving (1.04 PPP) and LeBron James (0.96 PPP) to name a few of the league's best 1-on-1 scorers.

So it's a good sign that Harden was equally as destructive in isolation against the Timberwolves. He averaged 10.4 isolation points per game in the series - down slightly from 12.2 points per game in the regular season - at a rate of 1.18 points per possession. His step-back 3-pointer in particular has become his go-to move in isolation, as the Timberwolves learned in Game 1 when Harden scored 44 points. If he can continue to knock those down and get to the free throw line at a high rate, the Rockets will have a chance against almost anyone, even when their 3s aren't falling.

10.9: Percentage of Chris Paul's total possessions in isolation.

Whereas Harden has been his normal self in isolation in the first round, Paul was not.

The only players who averaged more points per game in isolation than Paul (5.6) in the regular season were Harden (12.2) and LeBron James (6.1). Isolation made up over 29 percent of his scoring on the season and he ranked near the 91st percentile with 1.10 points per possession. Against the Timberwolves, however, Paul averaged only 1.4 points per game in isolation, dropping his frequency on those plays down to 10.9 percent. He wasn't very efficient, either, averaging just 0.70 points per possession.

Some of that has to do with how the Timberwolves defended him. Both Paul and Harden use pick-and-rolls as a way to create switches they can exploit in isolation. By having their bigs drop back in pick-and-rolls, the Timberwolves minimized those switches for Paul. The problem is they opened up opportunities for Paul to score in pick-and-rolls in doing so, where he's one of the best scorers in the NBA. It's why he went from scoring 6.5 points per game as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls during the regular season to 12.2 in the first round.

Such are the decisions teams have to make when game planning around Paul and Harden.

117.0: Rockets' offensive rating with Clint Capela on the court.

Capela wouldn't have had the season he did without Paul and Harden, but Paul and Harden wouldn't have had the season they did without Capela.

Capela has turned into the ideal center for his star guards. Rather than demanding the ball in the post like many players his size, he's developed into one of the best screeners, rollers and finishers in the league. While he averaged only 13.9 points per game during the regular season, he's the key to keeping defenses honest. Without him on the court, teams can crowd the paint with more confidence knowing an athletic center isn't roaming for an alley-oop or an opportunity to attack the offensive glass. They can apply more pressure on 3-point shooters as well knowing Capela isn't rolling to the basket and finishing 69.5 percent of his shot attempts.

"We just expect it from [Capela]," Paul told ESPN . "He runs the court, he plays hard, he sets hard screens. A lot of times people talk about the shots and passes and stuff we make, but he opens up everything for us because he's a threat when he rolls to the rim."

Capela's impact on the Rockets was clear against the Timberwolves in first round. Houston averaged 117.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the court and only 106.5 with him on the bench. The former puts him behind only nine players - one of whom is his teammate Trevor Ariza - in offensive rating for the playoffs.

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