Tag: Houston Rockets

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three

Warriors don’t live by 3, die by 3. They live by defense, live by defense


The Warriors were supposed to be dying.

They shot just 4-of-15 (27 percent) on 3-pointers in the first half, purportedly a fatal blow for a live-by-the-3, die-by-the-3 team.

How was it actually goink?

Golden State led by 25 on its way to a 115-80 Game 3 win over the Rockets on Saturday.

The Warriors have been mislabeled a jump-shooting team. Sure, they’re perfectly willing to launch 3-pointers. But that doesn’t define their identity.

First and foremost, they’re a defensive team.

Golden State played the NBA’s best defense during the regular season, practically leading the league in points allowed per possession wire-to-wire.

Because they also played at the league’s fastest pace, they ranked just 15th in points allowed per game. So plenty of less-discerning observers didn’t fully appreciate their defensive dominance.

Sadly, Golden State’s best defensive performance of the playoffs also won’t get its just due. For one, Stephen Curry stole the show by scoring 40 points and breaking the record for 3-pointers in a single postseason. The game was also played faster than the Warriors’ league-leading pace.

So, though Golden State’s 80 points allowed seem low, its 77.9 defensive rating is even more telling. For perspective, the Warriors posted an excellent 98.2 defensive rating during the regular season.

Golden State wasn’t that dominant in Game 1 and Game 2 of this series, allowing 105.9 points per 100 possessions.

What changed?

Start with the Warriors’ defense of James Harden, the catalyst of of the Rockets’ offense.

  • First two games: 33 points on 24-of-41 shooting, including 4-of-9 on 3s, with nine assists per game
  • Game 3: 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-5 on 3s, with four assists

After primarily using Klay Thompson on Harden, Golden State opened Game 3 with Harrison Barnes on the MVP runner-up. Thompson guarded Harden fine, but Harden destroys fine. Barnes provided more length to bother Harden’s step-back jumpers, which had been falling. Thompson and Andre Iguodala also got turn on Harden, and the Warriors aggressively sent help defense when Harden had the ball.

Keep in mind, Barnes guarded Zach Randolph in the last round. Not many players are versatile enough to go from the powerful Randolph in the post to the crafty Harden on the perimeter.

That’s par for the course with the Warriors, whose defensive success is built on the ability to switch and defend many styles. If there’s an offense they can’t handle, it hasn’t shown yet this season.

Game 3’s strategy definitely made Harden uncomfortable with the ball. Much of Harden’s limited success came cutting off the ball, and Golden State will try to shore that up before Monday’s Game 4.

But with the Warriors up 3-0 – a lead no team has ever blown – it’s time to look ahead. LeBron James is not Harden, but this might have been a sneak peak of how Golden State guards LeBron James in the Finals. The aspects of Golden State’s game plan that best limited Harden seem to fit relatively well against LeBron, who has the ball in an awful lot.

And if that doesn’t work, the Warriors will probably find something that does.

They have all season.

Stephen Curry drops 40, Warriors rout Rockets by 35 to take 3-0 series lead

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three

For two games on the road, the Rockets battled and found little edges that kept games close. James Harden was forced into a lot of midrange shots and tough step-backs, but he was draining them. Dwight Howard was playing through a painful knee but he was putting up double-doubles. Role players stepped up beyond what could be expected from them consistently. The defense struggled with communication at times but looked fantastic at others.

Still, it felt like there would be one game in this series where all those edges wouldn’t go their way, where the Warriors would make the plays and get the bounces.

Plus, we had yet to see the best of Stephen Curry in this series — not just the ridiculous shooter, but the MVP who made a good team great.

It all happened Saturday night.

Golden State raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, got 40 points on just 19 shots from Stephen Curry, and the Warriors routed the Rockets, 115-80.

Golden State now has a commanding 3-0 series lead. I won’t get into how no team has ever come back from 3-0 down in an NBA playoff series, I’ll just say Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.

“The halftime box score was really telling…” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who noted that his team was up 25 despite shooting just 45 percent and hitting 4-of-15 from three, but they had just one turnover. “If we defend like crazy and don’t turn it over, and when we do that we’re tough to beat.”

That pretty much was Kerr’s dream half.

It was about the paint — Andrew Bogut had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter, and Golden State had 14 points in the paint in the first quarter, 32 in the half. It wasn’t just post ups, it was a matter of guys working hard off the ball and working for rebounds — Golden State grabbed 38 percent of its missed shots as offensive rebounds in the first half.

Maybe the most emblematic play of the first half: Stephen Curry snuck baseline and got inside rebounding position on Dwight Howard, got the offensive board, and was fouled going back up.

“For us, we have to score in the paint, we have to get offensive rebounds,” Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale said. “They beat us up in those two areas.”

The other side of this was Houston just could not hit shots — the Rockets shot 29.3 percent in the first half and were 2-of-13 from three.

James Harden was 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, struggling with different looks and a variety of double teams. Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes got time on him, not just Klay Thompson. Golden State just started putting a second guy between Harden and the rim, and for Harden the midrange shots he made look effortless for a couple games would not go down.

Golden State was up by 25 — 62-37 — at the half. The Game felt over. It was

The Rockets came out early in the second half and made a run, got the lead down to 18 and the crowd into the game.

Then the Warriors came back and Curry shut them up — and would not give the fans a dap.

Synergy Sports tweeted out that Curry has made 91% of the 3-pointers he’s attempted from the left corner this postseason.

If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Rockets, Dwight Howard looked spry and energetic, with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He moved a lot better and played with some passion.

But this is a rough night in Houston — James Harden had 16 points on 3-of-16 shooting.

Houston has played well and valiantly this postseason, but the Warriors are simply better.

Lakers GM: If free agents don’t choose L.A. because of Kobe Bryant, ‘we don’t want them. You should go someplace else.’

kobe mitch

The notion that free agents haven’t been willing to come to the Lakers in recent seasons because they don’t want to play with Kobe Bryant was brought up near the beginning of the season, but has been refuted by plenty of star players since.

The reality is that the only star-caliber players who have changed teams lately had very specific reasons for doing so. LeBron James was never going anywhere but back home to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony stayed in New York to get the maximum amount of money allowed, and L.A.’s poor treatment and marginalization of Pau Gasol the past two years had him ready and willing to play somewhere (or perhaps anywhere) else.

Bryant has one year remaining on his contract, and though he’s expected to be healthy at the beginning of next season, no one can predict how long that will last. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said that Bryant hasn’t indicated that he will play beyond next season, but also mentioned that if Bryant’s presence is seen as a deterrent by free agents considering Los Angeles, then he doesn’t want them, and they should go play somewhere else.

From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:

Kupchak was also asked if it’s important for free agents to have clarity on Bryant’s future plans with the Lakers, particularly if they’re wary of joining the team while Bryant is still playing, a notion that has been reported in recent years.

“I think it is clear,” Kupchak said. “He’s on the last year of his deal. There have been no discussions [about playing beyond next season]. He hasn’t indicated that he wants to continue to play.

“But if there is a player out there like that, that won’t come here for that reason, then we don’t want them. Every great player is demanding and focused, and if you don’t want to play for a guy like him that’s driven to do nothing but win championships and work hard, then you shouldn’t be here. You should go someplace else.”

This has been the stance the Lakers have taken all along, and they are right to do so.

Dwight Howard famously clashed with Bryant, and took less money to play for the Rockets. He may not have wanted to play with Bryant any longer, but I believe he left more because he couldn’t take the pressure of being the face of the franchise in a major market like Los Angeles once Bryant was gone.

That’s one example of the type of player the Lakers can’t afford to sign to a long-term, max-money deal as they look to reshape the franchise into a contender in the future. There certainly are others. But the Lakers organization needs a strong-willed star to carry it into its next era of greatness, and someone who would bristle at Kobe’s level of commitment or competitiveness simply isn’t a match.