In a primetime game this past Saturday, the Houston Rockets wrapped up their season series (2-1) against the Golden State Warriors, with a 116-108 win in Houston, Texas. Unfortunately, each of these games has been marred by some injury or player absence. This doesn’t allow us to have any major takeaways from any one particular game. The Houston Rockets might have won the battle (regular season series 2-1). But here are 5 reasons why they can’t win the war, come Playoff time:
The Warriors dropped the game on opening night. But they played the fourth quarter of that close game without one of their All-Stars – Draymond Green. Not to mention, the three rotation players – Nick Young, Jordan Bell, and Omri Casspi – that they were still trying to gel with. In game 2 of the season series, on Jan. 4, both teams played without huge stars in Kevin Durant and James Harden respectively. The Splash Brothers – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – carried the Warriors to a win by combining for 57 points. Green’s absence on opening night turned out to be a rest issues, something that won’t be a problem in the postseason.
Harden first got a taste of these high-pressure games in 2012, when he faced the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals. After scoring double digits points in every game that Playoffs, he failed to do so in three of the five Finals games. In 2015, Harden carried the Rockets to the Conference Finals against the eventual champions the Warriors. Though he started the series on fire, it all went downhill again.
Last year, “The Beard” disappeared in a must-win Game 6 in the Conference Semifinals against the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. Harden has got a lot to prove when it comes to showing up when the team needs him the most in Playoff must-win situations.
Reigning Head Coach of the Year, Mike D’Antoni has a notorious habit of playing a very short bench in the Playoffs. Many believe Harden’s dismal performance in Game 6 last year was because he was gassed out. Not only because of D’Antoni short rotation tactics but also due to Harden unnecessarily playing 81 games in the 2016-17 regular season. It could be the reason why the Rockets lose because the teams in the first and second round of the West Playoffs are no pushovers.
It’s no breaking news that the Rockets live and die by the three-pointers. If we stick to just defense on three-point shooting, Golden State holds their opponents to 35.8% shooting (11th best) whereas Houston does it at 37.4% (25th ranked). So if their strategy is to outscore the Warriors, that isn’t going to work but that’s the risk Morey is willing to take. Houston is ranked dead last in percentage of points inside the three-point line – 41.3%. Again Golden State is more balanced and thus ranks 15th in this category with 55% of their points coming from inside the three-point arc.