Fresh off one of the best games of this postseason, and one of the more memorable duels between two players on opposing teams, the Golden State Warriors have the upper hand 2-0 on the Houston Rockets as the series shifts to the Lone Star State. However, while there are several things the Rockets need to correct to get back in the series, there are some things the Warriors may need to correct in order to ensure they put the Rockets away.
Before the start of this series, the Rockets looked like the team that was turnover prone. But, on Thursday night the Warriors turned it over sixteen times. Most of them being unforced. Their loose handling of the ball helped keep the Rockets close, and ultimately led to a huge run in the second quarter that saw a seventeen point vanish before halftime. Houston, on the other hand, turned it over only ten times,which is well under their average that was the worst in the NBA.
We already know how horrible the Rockets are from the charity stripe, but the Warriors are 23 – 35 from the line which is only slightly better than the Rockets in the first two games.
The Rockets haven’t had much success guarding Curry, but Klay Thompson has been a much different story. The other half of the ‘Splash Brothers’ is only 12 of 33 from the field, including only 2 of 14 from three point range. Those numbers are likely going to have to get better. One thing that may be hampering Klay, however is that he’s the primary defender on James Harden. So, maybe this isn’t the series for him to have huge offensive performances. The bench has more than picked him up. Shawn Livingston, has been spectacular. It’s also been the bench in both games that were responsible for huge second quarter runs. In game one, they erased a sixteen point deficit, and in game two they built a seventeen point lead. So, while Klay hasn’t been himself, the Warriors still have plenty to lean on.
Of course, the Rockets haven’t been perfect. There are several reasons for them being down 2-0, but they’re all correctable for the most part.
J-Smoove was literally a no-show in game two. How he scored ten points is beyond me. As good as he’s been over the last couple of weeks, he was that bad Thursday night. It’s almost like he checked out at certain points of the game. Careless passes that led to turnovers, missed block-out assignments allowing key offensive rebounds for the Warriors, and just just feeling of him not being engaged. The Rockets need a lot more from him. His ball handling could take a lot of pressure off of Harden having to do everything for this team to score. They also need his rebounding, especially in situations where Kevin McHale has gone to a small lineup. Whether, it’s the good Josh Smith, or the bad will be quite significant in determining who wins this series.
The Rockets defense against Steph Curry has been very sloppy at times. Curry, is lethal enough against tight defense. There were too many instances where the Rockets just flat out lost him. How does that happen? It’s a very difficult job trying to stick with Steph, but giving him wide open three’s is inexcusable. As close as both games have been, these instances can easily cost you a game. Pablo Prigioni, is probably the guy that’s been burned the most. McHale, did not go with Prigioni at all in the second half, opting to go with rookie Nick Johnson late in the third quarter, instead. Johnson, may be a valuable asset in trying to hold Steph down. Johnson, is younger and much quicker than Prigioni or Jason Terry. He just doesn’t have the experience. Playing in Houston could help that.
It was questionable if Dwight Howard would even play in game two. He posted a respectable 19 points and 17 rebounds. However, there was still a feeling that he could have done more. Especially, when Steve Kerr goes to his small lineup where Draymond Green is usually Howard’s defender. Green, is giving up a lot of size to say the least, but Howard hasn’t received many touches in those instances. Howard, has done a decent job of getting fouls on Andrew Bogut, who had them early in both games. The Warriors are comfortable playing small, but it’s obvious Bogut is very important protecting the rim and keeping Howard in check.
Of course, this series has been all about the marquee matchup of the top two vote getters in the MVP race. Steph Curry and James Harden. For the most part, Harden has been slightly better than Curry. That has to be no consolation if you’re a Rockets fan, and it also has to be a bit concerning when you see them trailing 2-0. I don’t think we’ve seen the absolute best out of either, but clearly the Rockets have little chance if Curry outduels Harden. Steph’s supporting cast has simply been better. They are the difference of this series. If, the Rockets want to get back in the series, Harden has to be Harden, but the supporting cast to show up better as well.