Why the Houston Rockets Won’t Upset the Golden State Warriors
By no means necessary is this article to discredit the Houston Rockets and their style of play. They have earned everything they’ve gotten and have nothing but the upmost respect for the Rockets organization. With that being said, I see no scenario in which the Rockets can upset the Warriors in a 7 games series and I’ve felt this way for some time now.
Live or Die by the Three
The Rockets play style is one of the most peculiar things in the NBA. They will live and die by the three and occasionally make their way into the paint for an easy two. Anything in between the three point line and the paint is seemingly off limits in a Mike D’Antoni offense. They attempt a leagues lowest 4.8 mid-range shots per game. However they attempt 37.2 shots in the paint and a league’s highest 45.2 threes per game, 28.2 coming from 25–29 feet. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s whats got them in the position there in today. However, it doesn’t work when you’re playing the two-time defending champions, the Golden State Warriors. A team with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry is the last team that you want to get into a shootout with. Golden State matches up with them perfectly to take them out of their game.
Golden State has one of the most dangerous lineups in recent memory. The ‘‘Hampton Five” means business. A lineup with Curry, Thompson, Durant, Iguodala, and Green had a plus minus of +123 in the regular season. When they roll this lineup out, they put Iggy on Harden and his length is disruptive and forces either a bad shot or Harden to pass. Against Golden State this season, Harden only shot 39% from the field. Golden State is a juggernaut and has firepower at nearly every position. Harden and CP3 can’t play hero ball. Calling an iso on every possession and having Tucker or Gordon in the corner for a three won’t beat this Warriors team. We’ve seen this team go cold. It happened last year in Game 7 and it even happened in the first round against Utah. The problem is that outside of Harden and Paul, there isn’t many guys who can create for themselves. Eric Gordon is a really solid scorer but once you go deeper into the roster there isn’t much. Houston just doesn’t match up well with this lineup. With Capela guarding Green, he’s being taken to the perimeter away from the paint.
Kevin Durant’s Reign of Terror
Although the Rockets have James Harden, an MVP and elite scorer, it seems as if the Rockets have no answer for Kevin Durant. This isn’t like last years Western Conference Finals. The Rockets don’t have Trevor Ariza to put on Kevin Durant. Now it’s James Harden and Eric Gordon guarding KD and they’re both at a size disadvantage. Durant is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now and Houston simply doesn’t have an answer for him defensively.
In the last 6 games Kevin Durant has been captivating NBA audiences.
- 38 points 7 assists 4 rebounds
- 33 points 6 assists 7 rebounds
- 45 points 6 assists 6 rebounds
- 50 points 5 assists 6 rebounds
- 35 points 3 assists 5 rebounds
- 29 points 4 assists 5 rebounds
Kevin Durant has always been a problem, but this is a different KD. He’s showing everyone just exactly what he’s capable of. He’s Kevin Durant, you know who is.
No Ball Movement
Golden State is an elite defense and it’s nothing new that we aren’t used to. Houston is an isolation heavy basketball team and that’s also nothing new. Over the course of the regular season, the Rockets attempted 1,511 shots in an isolation situation. The Oklahoma City Thunder were second with only 712 shot attempts. Isolation basketball won’t beat the Warriors in a seven game series.
The one thing you always want to do with an elite defense is keep them on their toes. Constant ball movement and keeping the defense active is the best way to find the best shot possible. For the Rockets, the rank with in the league in assists per game. The only two teams worse than them are the Cavaliers and the Knicks. Houston has averaged only 17.6 assists so far into a playoffs. In the Warriors 25 regular season loses, their opponents averaged 26 assists. There’s no off ball movement in the Rockets offensive system. It’s a stagnant offensive that relies heavily on the isolation capabilities of James Harden and Chris Paul.
When you add up the Rockets incapability to match up with Golden State, their odd offensive system and the overall dominance of Golden State, it’s hard to believe that Houston stands a chance. I don’t think this’ll be a sweep. Harden could easily put up 50 and carry his team to a win. However, I find it HIGHLY unlikely that Houston can win 4 of the next 5 games. Being down 2–0, their backs are against the wall. As they head back to Houston, you’d have to think they’d need both wins to keep their season alive.
Unless there are some unreal heroics by Paul and Harden, I truly believe this series is close to being over. I say it’s done in Game 5 and the Warriors will inch closer to making another run at an NBA Finals appearance.
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