Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon find chemistry upon arrival with Rockets
Ryan Anderson good-naturedly shoved aside Rockets teammate Pat Beverley during a loosening drill Friday on the Toyota Center court, primarily because of Beverley moving a little slow and grooving a little too much in front of Anderson.
Beverly shook his head and smiled at his eager buddy, who eased ahead of him in the exercise. Considering Anderson’s recent playoff past, it’s little wonder the forward is raring to go in Sunday night’s first-round opener against Oklahoma City - and that goes for teammate guard Eric Gordon as well.
“We know we can beat every team in this league,” Anderson said. “We’re coming in to the playoffs very confident.”
That’s in bright contrast to this time two years ago for Anderson and Gordon, when they were just happy to be in the playoffs as New Orleans Pelicans.
“We fought our way in in New Orleans,” Anderson said about the 2014-15 season. “We had to win our last game just to get in to the playoffs, and then we were playing against the No. 1 seed (in Golden State). This is a whole different scenario.”
Indeed, considering the Rockets (55-27) have been on cruise control in April after sealing the no-mystery No. 3 seed behind Golden State and San Antonio two weeks ago.
“We’ve been stuck in third for about a month now,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It seems like we’ve been there forever.”
Gordon and Anderson will gladly take it, considering they missed the playoffs last season with the Pelicans and a year prior were swept by the Warriors in the opening round. The duo played four, oft-frustrated and injury-plagued seasons together in New Orleans, with the one playoff appearance and zero postseason victories to show for it.
“This team has better chemistry and probably better players,” Gordon said of the Rockets. “Now it’s time to focus on what we need to do to win these playoff games.”
Add scoring punch
Two years ago, the Pelicans squeaked into the postseason with a victory over San Antonio in the regular-season finale, only to be manhandled by the eventual NBA champion Warriors. The third game of that series is especially memorable to Gordon and Anderson.
“We were up by 20 points in the fourth quarter, I’ll never forget that,” Gordon said of eventually losing in overtime. “We had a very talented team, it just boiled down to chemistry.”
Chemistry unlike what Anderson and Gordon now enjoy with the Rockets, who play host to the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35) in Sunday’s opener. The Rockets signed the duo last July, after having courted them over the years.
Gordon is third in scoring (16.2 points) behind James Harden (29.1) and Lou Williams (17.5). Anderson is the team’s most accurate 3-point shooter (40.3 percent) and both players have provided plenty of what they were primarily signed for: instant offense.
The Rockets have scored at least 120 points in 31 games, and three of their players were among the NBA’s top nine in 3-pointers made, with Harden (262) and Gordon (246) finishing the regular season third and fourth behind the Warriors’ Stephen Curry (324) and Klay Thompson (268). Anderson was ninth with 204.
“You add guys like Ryan and Eric, who’ve been in this league a long time, and they get an opportunity to see what (the playoffs) feel like,” said Harden, who led the Rockets to the Western Conference finals two years ago and the opening round last season, both series losses to the Warriors.
“Coach (D’Antoni) has a great style of play, and we’ve got very unselfish guys,” Gordon said. “We’re going to play our best basketball now, in the playoffs and with this spread offense.”
Anderson and Gordon, both 28, say they enjoyed their time in New Orleans, especially as they matured in the league. But that enjoyment never reached the levels it has in one season in Houston - thanks especially to winning.
“We’re playing at a really high level, we’ve had a great year and we want to keep building on it,” Anderson said. “This team from day one, when we first came together last summer, had chemistry on and off the court. It’s not a situation where you dread coming in to work every day.
“Chemistry goes a long way in this league, and it’s very rare to play on a team where everybody really enjoys their time together. Everybody is a piece of a puzzle, and it feels good to come to a team where you know you’re making a difference, and you’re having fun along the way.”