Rockets Not Lacking Rim Protection With Small Ball Lineup

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HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- When the Rockets traded Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks just before the deadline, bringing in Robert Covington from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the main concern was where they would find rim protection and rebounding. 

It's well-known around the league that Houston went all-in on the small ball concept, rarely playing a traditional center these days with Capela out and Covington in. 

The idea was to maximize spacing with Russell Westbrook emerging as a dominant scorer in the paint and mid-range, as well as an adept passer finding shooters on the perimeter. 

Westbrook's continued efficiency and excellence has been a revelation. Take Wednesday night, for example, when Westbrook had 20 points in the paint just in the first half.

The worry as to whether Westbrook would adapt his game to fit into the Rockets' system is gone.

As it was said they would before the season, Westbrook the Rockets figured it out.

What the Rockets are also learning is that the 6'7" Covington can serve as a rim protector in his own right. He's not Capela as a rebounder or shot-blocker, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from the past several games. 

Covington is averaging 3.6 blocks per game in the last five games, StatMuse noted on Twitter. He has 21 blocks since being traded to Houston, which is the second-most in that span behind Anthony Davis. who has 22 blocks.

Rockets starting center Robert Covington is averaging 3.6 blocks per game in the last 5 games.He has 21 blocks since being traded to Houston, 2nd most in that span behind Anthony Davis who has 22 blocks. pic.twitter.com/lK3dL2rlb5

— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 27, 2020

The small ball strategy is working. The Rockets are on a five-game winning streak. 

Defenses have a choice: double team James Harden and allow Westbrook a free run to the basket, or deal with Harden and Westbrook as shot creators straight up. 

There's no one clogging the lane or waiting to set a pick, while wings appear willing to contest at the rim. 

This could become a larger issue in a seven-game series against the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks, or any playoff team. 

For now, the Rockets look poised to challenge for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, as head coach Mike D'Antoni has mentioned as a goal. 

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