Photo Credit: ESPN
Tonight the Warriors and Rockets met for the third time, and even without James Harden, one thing was clear: Nobody tests Golden State like Houston.
The Rockets have not been the second or third best team this year, they arguably have barely been a top 10 team, so why do the Rockets challenge the Warriors? They took the Golden State dynasty to 7 games last year and it took an injured Chris Paul and 27 straight missed threes from one of the best shooting teams to give the Warriors the win. This year the Rockets boast a 3-0 record vs the Warriors including a win in Golden State without Chris Paul and another without James Harden. There is no question the Rockets challenge the Warriors, but what makes them so much better at it than others.
Daryl Morey built this team with one goal: Beat the Warriors. Chris Paul is the perfect point guard to face the Warriors. He is still an elite defender to guard Steph and does not turn the ball over like Westbrook. Against the Warriors, a turnover is a bucket if not a three at the other end. Now then the question is what about Harden? He turns it over a lot. As ESPN just wrote a great article about, James Harden is so effective exposing Steph Curry on defense that it helps make up for the turnovers he provides the Warriors.
Next he got shooters, now might seem like a crazy idea to attempt to outshoot the Warriors, but in reality, it has not been. Beating the Warriors is so hard, the best way to do it is getting extremely hot from three, so having players like Eric Gordon, Gerald Green and PJ Tucker have been key. Let’s look at the Rockets three wins against the Warriors in the WCF. In game 2, those three combined for 10/16 from beyond the arc. That type of shooting is needed to outscore the Warriors.
Photo Credit: ESPN
The last big thing for the Rockets is part of the issue overall this year, but also part of the reason they are so good against the Warriors still: DEFENSE. They lost Trevor Ariza, and overall the defense got worse, so why is that not true against the Warriors. The answer is the scheme. The Rockets always switch everything thanks to the versatility of Clint Capela. Against too many teams without Ariza teams have been able to single out smaller guards on bigs like Steven Adams and Anthony Davis, however, the Warriors offense doesn’t do that. In the past, the Warriors have not had a traditional big man to do that, and Clint Capela is the best big in the league when getting switched and staying disciplined. Now the issue is the Warriors added Cousins right? Nope, because of the way the Warriors play offense Demarcus Cousins still spends a lot of time roaming the perimeter and creating SPACING. SPACING is the key to the Warriors offense, all those amazing shooters coming off screens and getting bigs switched on to them and dominating the game. The Rockets, however, don’t have issues covering that. The Warriors have scored under 100 points three of the last four times they played the Warriors with Chris Paul healthy and guarding their offensive starter Steph Curry.
You might not like the Rockets, you might think they can’t win it all this year. They might be overrated, and might be the 4th-5th best team in the West. EVERYONE should still hope for a Warriors-Rockets 2nd round series, because the Rockets still matchup best with the Warriors and have the best chance to end the Dynasty. Thank Daryl Morey for that.