The Golden State Warriors head into game 2 of their conference finals with the Houston Rockets leading 1-0, feeling confident about Stephen Curry not having a match on the other side, even when we’re talking about James Harden.
Curry outscored Harden, but that’s not the only thing. The Rockets need Harden to touch the ball and influence plays. The Warriors defense is ready for that, as we saw in their 9-0 run late in game 1 that opened up the nine point lead that won them the game. Curry? First of all, the Rockets don’t have anyone to guard him. And just him running around the arc and drawing attention to himself causes damage.
Are we going to see more small ball from both teams? A lot of it has to do with Dwight Howard, who is questionable for the game. His absence might mean a starting call up for Clint Capela, but it’s not like Capela is going to get Howard’s minutes. It means more time for Josh Smith at center and other lineup changes for the Rockets, who are already playing without Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas, both out for the rest of the playoffs.
Back to Smith. He shot just 6-of-16 from the field, missing a lot of open shots from long range and midrange, with the Warriors more than happy to give him the space. Smith either has to make them pay for it like he did against the Los Angeles Clippers in the closing games of that series, or try to attack the basket more against guys like Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes when the Warriors are playing their own version of the small lineup.
The Rockets shot better from the field and beyond the arc than the Warriors, but turned the ball over more. Usually, points in the paint, especially when it’s just a 52-50 edge, don’t mean much, but maybe in order to try and change things up, McHale will tell his players to do more in an attempt to somehow change the Warriors defense, if it is McHale that decides these kinds of things.
Defensively, the Rockets might try to give Curry the Trevor Ariza treatment, although where does that leave Jason Terry is a different question. Harden and Terry weren’t able to keep up with the Warriors’ point guard and the league’s MVP, rarely getting in his way or making any sort of shot difficult for him. Maybe more minutes of Ariza on him can force the Warriors to go to Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but if Ariza is guarding Curry, who is slowing down Thompson?
The Warriors have the matchup advantage, the superstar advantage and the coaching advantage. They’re healthier, and have the better bench. It’s not going to be an adjustment that turns this series into a different direction, but rather one or two players stepping up for more than one or two minutes. As far as different matchups and changes the Rockets have to offer, they’ll pretty soon find themselves realizing they’re being outplayed by a better team.