Philadelphia 76ers Stat Monkey Brief: Sixers/Rockets (1/12/13)

See the guy with the beard? The key is to not let him get to the free throw line.

Defending Harden

The Sixers will have a difficult task in slowing down James Harden; he’s coming off a streak in which in he scored 25 or more points in 14 straight games. The two players likely to spend the most time guarding him are Jason Richardson and Evan Turner, both have been up and down defensively this year. Harden’s greatest strength is getting to the free throw line, with 10.1 attempts per game, which makes him the leader in the NBA.

Neither Richardson nor Turner are especially prone to fouling; both commit fewer than 2.5 fouls per 36 minutes (2.1 and 2.4, respectively). However, both have been scored on at a rate above league. Richardson has been slightly better, with a 105 defensive rating to Turner’s 106.

The Sixers will also be hard-pressed to keep Harden out of the lane. About a 40 percent of his shots come in the restricted area, per, and he’s making nearly 60 percent of those shots once he gets there. Add in the amount of free throws he creates, and Harden’s efficiency close to the basket goes way up.

Attacking the Defense

The Rockets defense has given up a ton of points this year as a result of their pace, fastest in the league. The Rockets defense, though, has actually been solid when looking past the point totals. They do a great keeping opponents off the free throw line and cleaning up the glass, ranking fourth in the league in those two of the four defensive factors. Their weak spot has been simply allowing teams to make shots.

Houston is giving up the seventh-highest effective field goal percentage from three-point range this season, an area Philadelphia should be able to take advantage of. The Sixers are 10th in the league in effective field goal percentage from three, but only 22nd in attempts. Their attempts will surely rise if they get coaxed into Houston’s running game.

Doug Collins probably doesn’t want Turner taking more threes, even though he’s the team’s best three-point shooter (by percentage)...which is strange, because he can be heard from the sidelines encouraging Spencer Spencer Hawes to let open looks fly from deep. If swingmen Richardson, Nick Young and Dorrell Wright can knock down their combined 18 three point attempts per game at a rate closer to their career averages, the Sixers will be in better shape.