Five Thoughts: Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors Game 1
To kick off the rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors and Rockets provided an entertaining affair that did not see a double digit lead at any point during the game. After careful viewing and reflection, here are five thoughts regarding game one of this fascinating series.
The Warriors are currently facing the toughest opponent they will see. While neither team played particularly well Sunday afternoon, the Rockets confirmed they are the only team that will be able to compete with the Warriors consistently over the course of a series. Even on a day where James Harden shot 9/28 from the field and the team shot 14/47 from three, Houston was able to hang with the mighty Warriors by hitting timely shots to prevent the lead from ballooning out of hand. This bodes well for the rest of the series, though P.J. Tucker will need to utilize his length to better contain Kevin Durant. The Rockets seem to have the firepower and consistency to give the Warriors a run for their money.
Klay Thompson does not look 100% healthy. This is cause for concern for the Warriors as they would love to be at full strength on their path to a three-peat; the best formula to beat the Warriors could be hoping at least one of their three stars will be troubled with injury. Thompson did not look fully able to get around screens for open looks and was held to just five three point shot attempts. With Chris Paul holding Steph Curry to 18 points on 5/12 shooting, the Warriors will need Klay to be healthy as their primary perimeter defender and as a marksman on the offensive end.
If you think KD has checked out and is ready to move on from GSW, think again. In the past few months there have been rumors that Kevin Durant leaving Golden State was more or less decided, and NBA writer Ric Bucher even reported that Durant to the Knicks is a “done deal.” If people are ready to sign off on Durant being ready for a new chapter in his career, Kevin himself sure isn’t. All he’s done after the memorable game two comeback by the Clippers is post 201 points in the last 5 games on just 121 shots. Durant surely is proving his worth yet again in the playoffs and is showing no signs of preparation for departure from the Bay Area.
Steve Kerr is not buying into Quin Snyder’s strategy of guarding James Harden.
Round 1 showed a unique tactic by the Jazz to defend James Harden and to prevent his lethal step-back jumper. Quin Snyder had his players heavily defend Harden’s left side and sometimes stand behind him, as exemplified below.
There were questions entering this series about whether Steve Kerr would attempt to contain Harden in this matter; instead, Kerr elected to throw size and length with Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney defending Harden coupled with plenty of help defense on the perimeter. The defensive plan on Harden is one of the more intriguing storylines looking ahead to the rest of this series- will Harden finally prove he can dominate and win a big playoff series?
Clint Capela needs to be a more aggressive presence. With DeMarcus Cousins out for the postseason, Clint Capela has the opportunity to be a difference maker in this series as a post presence on both ends. Capela put on a disappointing display Sunday afternoon, shooting just 1/2 from the field and grabbing six boards while posting the worst plus-minus on the team. Nene Hilario gave Houston some good minutes off the bench, but Capela is the big man who can give the Warriors some trouble with a better performance than today. Harden and Paul will need to contribute to Capela’s success as they are the main playmakers in the offense to create easy shots for their teammates. Look for Capela to come out more aggressive and physical in game two.