Whew. It was great just to see Steph get to his feet, let alone return to the game, after that Jerry McGuire moment. Although I’m not a fan of the decision to let him return. Doctors are not infallible, the game was totally meaningless and the deficit already big. I would have liked to see Warriors management step up like adults in this situation. It reminded me a bit of Mike Shanahan destroying RGIII’s career, although the injuries of course are not at all similar.
It seems kinda pointless to analyze a game like this, a give-away game in which the give-away was interrupted by a frightening injury to the MVP, but Houston made quite a few interesting adjustments in this game that I’d like to mention:
The Three-Ball: As the incomparable analyst Ray Ratto will no doubt remark, the biggest adjustment the Rockets made was hitting their threes.
But there was an adjustment involved here. The Rockets pushed the ball much more in transition, which always results in open players, and were unhesitatingly taking every open three they got. They also went completely away from looking for Dwight Howard, particularly in the post, focused more on cutting, screening and ball movement, and actively hunted open three point shooters in the halfcourt offense.
The rate at which they hit the three is obviously unsustainable, but this is the way the Rockets need to play to beat the Warriors.
The Harden Defense: There was some controversy in the last thread over whether the Warriors actually made an adjustment on James Harden in the last game, other than switching Harrison Barnes onto him. I posted a clip there, but if you want to see another example of what I saw, check out 10:40 3rd Q: The Warriors are in a box and one zone, in my opinion, and the reason that Harden can’t drive by Barnes has nothing to do with Barnes himself. It has to do with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson pinching in, ready to trap any penetration. Harden sees the trap, because he’s a really smart player, and the Rockets reset in a 1-2 pick and roll, in which Barnes gets screened by little Jason Terry, and Harden beats Livingston (a much better defender than Barnes) on the drive. (By the way, if you want to see Barnes get totally hung on a screen — a regular occurrence — there is no better example than this.)
You saw that box and one a lot in the last game, but actually very little in this game, because the Rockets made several adjustments. The first, as I already mentioned, was beating the Warriors’ defense downcourt. They also set a lot more high picks for Harden up top instead of isoing him, and those picks were generally 2-1 or 2-5, not the idiotic 2-4 picks that have brought Draymond Green into the play in previous games. The Rockets’ targets in the high screen in this game were principally Barbosa, Bogut and Ezeli. And presumably Curry in the next game. Harden has no problem getting his three-ball off against those guys.
Another very clever adjustment the Rockets made was posting up Harden at the free throw line. Check out 8:48 3rd Q: Barnes had no chance to defend that drive, first because the clever Harden put him on his back, and second because the Warriors help wing defenders were out of the play. The spot where Harden caught the ball was already inside the defense. That’s one good way to beat a zone: penetrate it with a pass.
Another good way: Have James Harden on your team. I don’t think Warriors fans have any doubt now what a great player he is.
The Stephen Curry Problem: Obviously, the Rockets don’t have an answer for this yet: there was Jason Terry again, both starting and finishing on Curry.
There was one interesting wrinkle though: When Terrence Jones came into the game, he picked up Curry on several possessions. And his length at 6-9″ clearly bothered Curry.
In this game.
Klay: Did you see him explode when he became the first option? Funny how that works. He’s been out of rhythm all series against Ariza’s tough defense, so hopefully this gets him going.
You also have to give credit to the Rockets’ numerous shotblockers: Klay has been largely unable to get to the rim or draw fouls on his drives.
Bogut: The longer this series goes, the tougher it’s going to be for Bogut, who was only able to give 21 minutes. One good reason among many for the Warriors to take care of business in Game 5.
He ate another bagel in this game, and presumably can no longer whine to the media about the flu. My reason for it is simple: the Rockets did a much better job containing penetration, Howard didn’t have to help, Bogut wasn’t wide open under the rim. He has no other way to score against Dwight Howard.
Draymond Green: 21 and 15, 4 assists and 5 blocks.
I don’t think I need to add anything to that.
The Give-Away: It was pretty clear that the Warriors weren’t ready to compete at the opening bell. Either that or the Rockets’ commitment to a much faster tempo took them by surprise, and got them on their heels. This game reminded me of Game 1 in that respect, when the Warriors went through an adjustment from the Grizzlies tempo to the Rockets.
But they didn’t quit, did they? I have been saying since these playoffs started that the Warriors don’t have any give-up games in them. They tried to give it away, but they just couldn’t go through with it.
Draymond Green wouldn’t let them.