As expected, the Houston Rockets didn’t put up much of a fight. The Golden State Warriors began their road towards what should be an easy second consecutive NBA title, and while their ability does leave us stunned at times (less and less), it’s not good having a playoff with the end result already known.
But it is what it is. The Rockets looked like the team that hasn’t recovered from losing in the conference finals a year ago. No thought, no defense, no fight when the game mattered. Daryl Morey tells them to keep shooting three pointers, so it’s what they do. Even when so few players on this team can hit threes, even when they’re open. Something else? It’s difficult when there’s only one player who can create shots for himself and others, while the other “star” on this team, Dwight Howard, looks like someone who can’t wait to get this season over with.
In a 104-78 win, it was mostly the Warriors defense that did the work. Yes, it’s a defense that gets more leeway than anyone else in the NBA, just like the rules for screens work differently when Warriors players do them. And still, holding James Harden to 0 free throws, two assists and six turnovers (his 17 points were meaningless) isn’t just about officials usually going your way. It has a lot to do with this defense, led by Draymond Green, being an absolute nightmare to deal with.
Stephen Curry played only 20 minutes, twisting his ankle and getting it taped up twice. He didn’t need too much time to score 24 points. It also doesn’t seem like there’s any concern about the next game. Steve Kerr simply kept him out as precaution. There was really no need for him to play and risk himself as the Warriors were up by 18 points at the end of the first quarter, holding the Rockets to only 15 points at the end of the first 12 minutes.
They held Houston to 35.7% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc. The Rockets had a bit more success when going inside, but they shot just 50% from the line. Things got chippy late as Donatas Motiejunas decided to take the game straight to Green’s face. Both Green and Andrew Bogut finished with 5 fouls. It didn’t make a shade of a difference. No lineup the Rockets used was capable of giving them more than a minute or two of advantage.
Attacking Curry right from the start through Patrick Beverley wasn’t such a bad idea. But having just one player who can make Curry upset (picked up a technical) isn’t enough. Beverley got T’d up? Someone else needs to make things difficult for Curry. Pick up the moment he crossed the half court line. Foul him hard. Nothing dirty, but get as physical as possible with him. The Warriors do it through Green and others. No reason the Rockets, who are inferior in pretty much every other way, shouldn’t try to do it too. Simply playing their game barely got them into the playoffs. It won’t win them a series against the Warriors.