The worst thing about the series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets for those who want to see two-sided affairs in the NBA playoffs is that the Rockets are exactly what the Warriors eat up for breakfast when they’re thinking about their ideal opponent.
A team that relies completely on the playmaking abilities of one player. The Rockets had the idea of Ty Lawson helping Harden when the season began, but it didn’t work for two reasons: Lawson seems to be a shell of his former self and isn’t even on the team anymore (he’s in the playoffs with the Pacers) and Harden makes it very difficult for things to thrive next to him. He had Jeremy Lin as his wingman for a short while as he just arrived in Houston, but Harden became more and more dominant, so he got paired up with Patrick Beverley, a point guard who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be happy.
Harden owns the record for most turnovers in a single playoff game. It happened last season against the Warriors, stripped or throwing away the ball into the wrong hands 12 times. He led the NBA in turnovers this season, setting a new record for TO’s in a single campaign. He had six against the Warriors in the game 1 loss. When a player has such an astounding usage rating and sometimes looks like the only player allowed to dribble the ball on this team, that’s what you get.
For a team like the Warriors, that don’t just do man to man defense well by putting bodies against posting up players but swarm the passing lanes and do a great job of trapping in difficult spots, that’s just too easy. They forced the Rockets to 24 turnovers in game 1, including five by Dwight Howard, who looks like a player who can’t wait to get out of where he is right now, although who’ll give him the money he’s dreaming about when he opts out? He can hardly run up & down the floor and the thing everyone has been warning about for years; Becoming less and less useful with his athleticism abandoning his; is happening at full effect.
With their defense holding the Rockets to 35.7% from the field and only a 77 offensive rating, the offense didn’t really need to do too much. Stephen Curry played only 20 minutes and finished with 24 first half points. He is listed as questionable for game 2, but he didn’t look to be in too bad of shape or pain when he was laughing it up on the bench during garbage time. Klay Thompson didn’t even shoot well and finished with 16 points. Draymond Green had 12, and so did Marreese Speights, flourishing in the moments when the game becomes a background for basketball mayhem.
The Rockets do have things they can do to make it a bit more difficult for the Warriors, but everything about how they play offense – from the insistence on three point shooting without having good shooters to Harden finding himself trapped and in difficult spots, is difficult to change at this point of the season. We’re a lot closer to this being a humiliating sweep than the Rockets making a dent in the Warriors armor.