The Western Conference Finals is shifting to Houston tonight, with the Golden State Warriors taking the first two games. The Rockets are coming off a devastating last-second loss in which James Harden and Stephen Curry dominated.
In the 99-98 loss, Harden nearly recorded a magnificent triple double (38 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) and Curry was phenomenal on the other end, dropping 33. For a more detailed review of the nightmarish game, you can click here if you're into that sort of self-harm kind of thing.
Through the first two games, the Rockets have had no answer for Stephen Curry, you don't need stats to prove that. He has been virtually unguardable all playoffs, but he has especially given Houston fits. Pablo Prigioni is definitely not the answer defensively, despite his clever and surprisingly effective play. Patrick "The Wolverine" Beverley is truly missed in times like these.
Curry has done most of his damage off pick-and-roll situations because the Rockets' game plan has been to switch everything, leaving Terrence Jones, Josh Smith, and even Dwight Howard alone on an island with Steph. Look for Kevin McHale to make the appropriate adjustments for Game 3, as that defensive action will be carved up time and time again by the lethal Curry. Look for the Rockets to bigs to blitz the pick and roll and trap Steph to make him uncomfortable and get the ball out of his hands. The Rockets did this a little down the stretch of Game 2.
Another strategy McHale might try to implement is the full-court deny. When Brewer is matched with Curry, he will prevent Curry from catching the inbound pass, forcing Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala to initiate the offense. Brewer executed this to perfection one possession, which resulted in Iggy dribbling down the clock aimlessly looking for Curry and an eventual Festus Ezeli (obviously unsuccessful) post-up.
Harden vs. Thompson
Harden has absolutely demolished Thompson so far. In one-on-one isolation situations against Thompson, Harden is cooking. It seems like every time he's matched up with Thompson, The Beard can either get in the lane/get fouled, pull-up for a three
in which he takes a rocker step and travels every single time, or spin off him for an easy midrange shot that has been money.
Thompson vs. Ariza
Whether it's Ariza's lock down defense or Thompson's dead legs from attempting to stay in front of Harden, Trevor Afrieza has reduced Thompson to a rich man's Avery Bradley. Thompson is averaging 14 points against Houston in the playoffs on just 2 of 14 shooting from deep.
The GSW Small Lineup vs. The Rockets
Every time the Warriors have gone with the lineup that has Draymond Green playing center, it has killed the Rockets. It has killed every team it has faced and there is not a discovered answer for it. The defense is swarming like the ants in Indiana Jones and the offense is quick and ruthless like a silent assassin. The Rockets must go at Green early to get him in foul trouble. That way, he can't be nearly as aggressive defensively.
Josh Smith vs. Draymond Green
- Josh Smiff against the Clippers:
- Josh Smith against the Warriors in Game 2: 10 points on 5-17 (!) shooting with a -9 (!!!) plus/minus.
This series is tight, to say the least, as the first two games were decided by a total of 5 points and it's a tragedy the Rockets didn't come away with one of them. In my opinion, it's a battle between the two best teams in the NBA and the winner of this series will have no problem handling the Eastern Conference representative in the Finals.