Houston Rockets Game Summary: Warrior Chemistry and Depth Rules

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Jan 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is interviewed after a game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 131-106. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Turning Point:

When rookie coaches come into the league they often don’t get the respect of referees their first season or two and generally are responsible for a few of their teams’ losses. Cleveland coach David Blatt benefits from having LeBron James on his team which buys him possessions and calls most first time coaches aren’t rewarded with, but even he doesn’t get calls coaches Popovich or Carlisle would for example.

Having said that the first time I’ve ever seen that not be the case is with Steve Kerr. Many queried why the mild mannered guy was picking up technical fouls at a rapid pace to start his coaching career. Early in the season he had 5 technical fouls while many of his counterparts hadn’t garnered any. My thinking is he was sending the zebra’s a message that he wouldn’t stand by and let them control the outcome or momentum of games without having his say. The truth is, it’s paid dividends as Golden State have the best defensive record, and part of the reason is Kerr made the zebra’s buy into the concept early that’s who this Warrior team was.

Which brings me to the turning point where two specific actions by Kerr resulted in the Warrior win:

The first big move came with a little over 2-minutes remaining in the second quarter. Sensing a shift in momentum Kerr called a key time out that refocused his team. Prior to this stoppage Houston had built a 59-54 lead and looked poised to take over the game. The time out stopped Houston’s onslaught and quieted the crowd. More importantly the Warriors built off their defense translating into an offensive 10-0 run to finish the quarter and resulted in Golden State leading by 5 points at the half.

The second key move was whatever Kerr told his troops at half time. They continued to protect the perimeter defensively and quickly shift to cover on their man to man defensive coverage. On the offensive end the Warriors were able to drive the ball to the paint or hit from outside as Houston was unable to stop them from either area.

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It left me with several questions:

  • Was there a priority given by McHale to close the paint given their size advantage or for them to close out on the perimeter?
  • Had he picked which poison he was willing to live with?

Knowing how versatile and explosive Golden State are, McHale must have prioritized one area to shut them down.

In contrast at Golden State had chosen to prioritize the perimeter which obviously worked because Houston wasn’t connecting and even more telling was they weren’t even getting the shot off because the Warriors closed on them so hard. Case in point: Houston average 33.6 attempts per game and 11.8 makes but they ended the game with 23 attempts and 7 makes, well off that season averages.

  • Which leaves me with my final question: Did McHale not properly game plan or did the team not produce?

Regardless of whether this was a matter of poor game planning or team execution it points out issues that need to be addressed moving forward.

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