Issue 129: The World Series of Basketball…Kind Of

The World Series starts tomorrow. I was going to say “tips off,” but that’s not really a baseball term. I suppose you could foul tip a ball, though it’s not the desired state for anyone. Perhaps you could say the World Series is about to be swinging. Hmm…that’s not much better.

In any case, we’re almost at the culmination of this year’s baseball season. The Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves will face off to see who’s best in all the land.

This happened last year in the weird pandemic season that was about a third as long as a regular season. And it happened the year before in our last “normal” season.

That 2019 World Series featured these very same Houston Astros (well, minus a few roster adjustments) and the Washington Nationals. To date, it’s the only World Series ever where the road team won every single game.

You’d think home-field advantage would count for SOMETHING, but no, it did not. The Nationals won the first two games in Houston, then the Astros stormed back and won three in a row in D.C. The Nationals then used the old baseball taunt of “anything you can do, I can do better” and finished off Games 6 and 7 in Houston.

While Game 7 was going down on October 30, 2019, there was another Houston vs. Washington matchup happening. The Rockets took on the Wizards in Washington, D.C. in a truly bizarre game.

And many Houstonians and D.C.ites missed it because they were focused on a championship instead of an early-season game. For shame.

317 points in regulation

The final score of Game 7 of the World Series was 6-2, a total of eight runs (I’m a math whiz, as you may know). The Rockets and Wizards combined for more points than that in three minutes and three seconds.

Washington was winning 77-76 at halftime, which was the final score of some games back when I was watching basketball in the 90s. But these teams still had 24 minutes to go.

In the end, the Rockets won 159-158 in regulation. Bradley Beal scored 46 points for the Wizards while James Harden had 59.

The Wizards hit multiple buzzer-beaters at the end of quarters. Houston’s Eric Gordon took 13 shots and they were all three-pointers. Houston’s bench had as many fouls as the starters despite playing 89 fewer minutes.

And in a game with very little defense, perhaps it’s fitting that the winning point came after James Harden flung himself into a defender, drawing a foul in only ways he can.

Remember: This is the same man who once earned himself a trip to the free-throw line by literally laying down on an opponent’s back and getting a quick piggyback ride.

This game also featured a beautifully coordinated double flop from Harden and Russell Westbrook. Seeing one person fall is commonplace; seeing two fall like a synchronized swimming adventure is akin to spotting a unicorn.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook both flop on the same play

Where has all the defense gone?

Here’s a fun stat from Fred Katz to show defense isn’t a part of basketball anymore.

And look at the Rockets’ shot chart below. If you’re new to shot charts, the circles are made baskets and the Xs are misses.

You may also notice how virtually every shot is a three-pointer or a layup or dunk.

Just wild stuff. While the home fans were disappointed with this one, winning a championship in any sport can usually make up for an early-season loss. So don’t feel too bad for Washington.

For even more on this wacky game, check out Mike Prada’s writeup from SB Nation.