I wonder if Kevin McHale watched this game.
If he tuned in to the 104-78 rout, he must have had an ear-to-ear grin for the whole time as his former team disintegrated in front of his eyes. He must have loved every ABC cut to J.B. Bickerstaff's stunned, half-conscious face on the sideline.
In the 26-point romp, the Rockets shot 6-22 (27.3%) from behind the arc and just 35.7% from the field. They had just 16 assists on 30 field goals and committed 24 turnovers to the Warriors' 15.
From the opening tip, Patrick Beverley and the Rockets tried to set the tone. Beverley bumped Steph Curry as they gave each other dap before the jump-ball and shortly after, they each earned technical fouls.
Beverley gave Curry a spirited hello pregame. https://t.co/LMbDSJjbPP— RealGM (@RealGM) April 16, 2016
Double techs called on Patrick Beverley and Steph Curry https://t.co/07SdQLs0eY— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) April 16, 2016
It was clear that the Rockets wanted to take a page out of the "Bad Boy" Pistons playbook and rough up Curry. But that brand of physical basketball is impossible to sustain in today's game. They were able to knock Curry down three or four times and even injure him, but they were never able to knock him out.
Josh Smith throws the hip check on Steph Curry https://t.co/dA7ifp5FrW— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) April 16, 2016
The MVP dropped 24 points in 20 minutes while his tweaked ankle kept him either in the locker room or on the bench for almost all of the second half.
After the game, Warriors coach labeled Curry as "questionable" for Monday, but Curry doubted that he would sit out a playoff game.
Stephen Curry from way deep over James Harden in transition. https://t.co/6l8CEL4LOU— RealGM (@RealGM) April 16, 2016
To echo Colin's take in his rapid recap, the problem for the Rockets wasn't effort. Their intensity was there for the duration of the game, but the Warriors are just too big, too strong, and too good.
Rockets so gassed. Not used to playing this intensely has killed their offense and their conditioning.— david b. thorpe (@coachthorpe) April 16, 2016
The main cause of the Rockets' demise was their lack of offensive execution, and a lot of that falls on the performance of James Harden. If Harrison Barnes (7 points) was invisible this game, Harden was translucent. Although he finished with semi-decent numbers — 17 points, 6 turnovers — he hurt the Rockets in the first half to the tune of 4 points, 4 turnovers, and 4 fouls.
Harden, who averages a league-leading 10.2 free throw attempts per game, did not get to the line once in the series opener.
"They're selling out to stop him from driving right now," J.B. Bickerstaff said in the post-game press conference.
J.B. Bickerstaff did not do much to help the faltering offense as he played Corey Brewer (who ran around with poop stains in his pants the whole game) and Jason Terry (probably wears adult diapers so he didn't have that problem) 28 and 24 minutes respectively. Brewer is 0-22 from three-point range in his last 11 games.
Bickerstaff never went to the Howard/Capela super big lineup, which could give the Rockets the advantage on the boards. He refused to play K.J. McDaniels or Donatas Motiejunas in the first half, both players who could have injected some life into the zombies on the court wearing red jerseys, something they did in the second half when the game was out of reach.
Once he plugged McDaniels in, he made plays. He was the only Rocket to finish with a positive plus/minus (+4). Bickerstaff decided to go with Motiejunas to start the fourth quarter when the Rockets were down 20. He delivered by winning a heated matchup with Draymond Green in the post.
It's just one game and the beauty of the NBA Playoffs is that there's plenty of time to make adjustments. Bickerstaff has three more games to prove he has even the slightest bit of competence as an NBA head coach before he is relegated back to the bench.
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Many fans were quick to blame Dwight Howard for the loss because that seems like the natural thing to do. Howard certainly wasn't the fabled "Playoff Dwight," but he wasn't terrible. He didn't play well defensively -- he looked slow and glued to the court at times -- but there's something to be said about the offense being facilitated through him compared to Harden holding the ball at the top of the key with great defenders in his face. No, he didn't move great, but when their best player was on the bench with foul trouble, the Rockets had to rely on Dwight.
He missed a couple of easy opportunities at the rim and labored up and down the court. Even so, he was still able to produce 14 points and 11 boards.
In Howard's defense, he was offensively alienated for the last two months of the regular season. He hadn't seen that many touches for a very long time. That sudden increase in offensive workload and defensive responsibility showed in the form of poor conditioning.
I would have liked to see a lot more Clint Capela, who only played 18 minutes and is a better, more versatile option against the Warriors on both ends.
Donatas Motiejunas, another big who deserved more minutes, played like an absolute crazy person and I mean that in the most positive way possible. He stepped on the court at the start of the fourth quarter, just as the ABC broadcast cut back in (I wish it never came back) and the offense ran through him.
He battled with Draymond Green in the post and even got tangled up with him. Their scuffle resulted in a technical foul on Green, but D-Mo made contact with an official and could be disciplined by the league.
Warriors' Draymond Green gets technical foul after flipping Rockets' Donatas Motiejunas to the ground pic.twitter.com/HKT1QLswUi— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 16, 2016
At some points, he even "out-crazied" Green. It was nice to see Motiejunas and Draymond going at it. Their feud would be an entertaining subplot.
The team that wins Game 1 goes on to win the series 77 percent of the time in the NBA. I don't want to be dramatic, but the series is over, even if Curry is hobbled by an ankle injury. The Rockets were doomed from the start.
I don't want to be vain, but I told you so. Surrendering their first round pick for four games against the best team in basketball is moronic and the Rockets community will have all summer to reflect on it.