Mike D’Antoni’s improvised rotation tips off in a few hours so here’s five final things to watch in game five.
1. Does Houston run a James Harden-Eric Gordon pick-and-roll?
Ryan Anderson is Houston’s best pick-and-roll option with James Harden. He always brought LaMarcus Aldridge to Harden for baking lessons and his three point shooting forced Kawhi Leonard to be honest and stay close to either or both. Running the pick-and-roll with Capela gives Leonard time to stay with Harden because the only threat is rolling to the basket or resetting the offense.
Beverley and Ariza can shoot threes, but they don’t do it with the fear-inspiring accuracy or depth Gordon can to force Leonard to switch instead of staying with Harden no matter what.
2. Do the Spurs change their offense to put Gasol in the post against Harden?
Yes. This is a real sentence for an NBA playoff game five. James Harden will guard Pau Gasol tonight.
For starters, it’s not what you think. When San Antonio puts Gasol on the floor with Aldridge it relegates him to the three point line. Which poses little to no challenge to Harden defensively.
Feeding Gasol in the post against Harden will cause San Antonio to shrink the floor and their spacing. Effectively running a different offense then they have been.
Harden is a solid post defender. He has great position and squares up well to keep his defender from getting right to the basket. There’s situations he can’t overcome if Gasol gets the ball low enough in the post or gets enough time to back Harden down without a double, but on the whole it’s not as lopsided a match up as it would have been for Lakers-era Gasol.
Preventing San Antonio from getting offensive rebounds. Now that’s going to be a problem.
3. Does Houston double Aldridge in the post on Ryan Anderson?
Ryan Anderson can’t contain LaMarcus Aldridge in the post. It’s just not going to happen unless Aldridge has game one yips again. Houston can help mitigate this by doubling quickly and forcing Aldridge to pass out.
Look at this set...
With Aldridge and David Lee on the court San Antonio went to Aldridge on Anderson in the post two plays in a row. Here’s Gordon coming over on Aldridge and forcing him to pass out to Simmons (this is a pass out despite the grainy image).
Simmons shot 29.4% from three this season. Force Aldridge to pass out. Close out on Simmons without leaving your feet to let him dribble by you. Force him to shoot this three.
4. Does Kawhi pick up Harden all game?
Kawhi didn’t play any of the fourth quarter in game four. But he also didn’t guard Harden as the primary defender for all of game four. San Antonio had Danny Green on Harden for stretches of the second quarter despite Kawhi being on the court.
If San Antonio does this again then Houston needs to stick to the “Kawhisolation” of game one. Drag him straight to the corner and leave him there.
5. Does Houston play Sam Dekker?
For a complete rant on why Houston should not play Montrezl Harrell in tonight’s game refer to this story.
For Sam Dekker I’d set an over-under at 9 minutes. Does D’Antoni stick with a classic Phoenix Suns seven man rotation or does Dekker get 12 or more minutes of run.
It seems most likely that Dekker will play, but only when there’s foul trouble or to give Harden a spell from guarding power forwards if Coach Gregg Popovich makes a serious change to the offense.