The playoff war of attrition has started.
Stephen Curry is set to miss a minimum of two weeks with a knee injury. The Rockets may be without Patrick Beverley, who's banged up with a slew of injuries to his knee, hip, and now his hamstring. Even the Clippers-Blazers series saw Chris Paul go down with a broken hand (and later Blake Griffin), and both are now set to miss the remainder of the playoffs. Dropping like flies, indeed.
As much as Patrick Beverley means to this Rockets squad, the reality is both teams have significant injuries, so there's no excuses for Houston should they fail to win this one. The heart and soul of the Rockets may be a game-time decision, but there is one thing they can do that could help them overcome his absence: shoot better.
Shooting, especially from deep, has been a problem for the Rockets all season, as they shot just 34.7 percent from beyond the arc for the year (19th in the NBA), and that problem has actually gotten worse in the playoffs. Houston is shooting only 29.1 percent from three in the four games against the Warriors.
James Harden is 10-35. Trevor Ariza, who's been basically completely invisible on offense all series, is just 4-21. Beverley is 3-11. Corey Brewer hasn't hit a shot since Game 6 versus the Clippers last year (sure seems that long) and is 0-6 in this series. Michael Beasley is 1-4. K. J. McDaniels is 1-3.
In fact, the only Rockets shooting above 33 percent for the series are Jason Terry, Josh Smith, and Donatas Motiejunas. And D-Mo is hitting less than one trey per game, and Josh Smith has played only 32 minutes this entire series. It's been a barren wasteland from beyond the arc, there's no doubt about it.
Meanwhile, the Dubs are hitting 39.8 percent from deep, only slightly less than the 41.6 percent they averaged during the regular season, and knocked down an NBA-record 21 of them in Sunday's Game 4 blowout.
The disparity is one of the key elements deciding this series right now, but if the Rockets can suddenly get hot, they have a chance to make this thing interesting before it's all said and done. Houston has gotten open shots, they just haven't knocked them down.
Things to watch for:
- If Beverley is out, what adjustments, if any, will coach J.B. Bickerstaff make? Shaun Livingston is a physical mismatch for both Jason Terry and Andrew Goudelock. Will we see more K.J. McDaniels, who's played a mere 29 minutes in the postseason to this point? McDaniels' size could help.
- James Harden needs some scoring assistance. The Beard is averaging 24.5 points per game for the series, with Dwight Howard (14.5) and Michael Beasley (10.5) the only other Rockets scoring in double figures. It's been a problem all year, yet we're still asking the question; who else can help Harden put up points? Thus far, it's been mostly no one.
- D-Mo matching up with Draymond Green. Motiejunas has been better over the last two games, averaging 11 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 assists while shooting 47.0 percent from the field and knocking down 3 treys. And he mostly held Green in check in Game 3, which resulted in the Rockets' only win of the series.
But Green took control in Game 4, with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 triples, and was back to being his usual obnoxious self. If D-Mo comes out sharp and makes Green work, Houston has a chance to grab some early momentum. Allow Green to run wild and start his yapping, and it'll be a long night for the Rockets.
Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on TNT