Houston Rockets Game Day:
This past Saturday the Golden State Warriors came to Houston in a match-up that was billed as a showdown of the best NBA defenses. Many eager NBA fans anticipated a classic show down. Though the teams seemed inclined to make everyone happy through the first half, the second half unleashed a Warrior squad who systematically locked down the Rockets offense while breaking down a non-existent Rocket defense.
Cut to tonight and the Rockets have an opportunity just 4 nights later to seek revenge. Much of the game day analysis remains intact from Saturday, however we do have some specific insight and thoughts on areas Houston needs to address tonight in order to become just the second team to beat Golden State on their home court.
- Golden State are on a 16-game home court winning streak. In fact they’ve lost just once all season at Oracle Arena to San Antonio on November 11.
- A win tonight by Golden State would mark the first time in 41 years the Warriors have swept the Rockets
- A win by Golden State tonight would mark their 17th consecutive at Oracle Arena and set a franchise record
- The 131 points posted by the Warriors was the most points scored against Houston in a season and a half
- Warriors and Rockets remain the top two defensive teams in NBA
Houston: 4th in West, 2nd in Southwest Division (of note Dallas has the same record as Houston but Rockets remain ahead based on having played and won more conference games)
Golden State: 1st in West, 1st in Pacific Division, Rank first in NBA with a 84.6% winning percent
Offense: Houston: 15th (103.2 points per 100 possessions) – Golden State: 3rd (109.7 points per 100 possessions) Note: GSW jumped a spot in offense rank since Saturday
Houston: 2nd (allowing 99.2 points per 100 possessions) – Golden State: 1st (allowing 97.2 points per 100 possessions)
Net: Houston: 8th with a positive point differential of +4.0 – Golden State: 1st with a positive point differential of +12.5
Pace: Houston: 8th with a pace of 98.3 possessions over 48 minutes – Golden State: 1st with a pace of 100.8 possessions over 48 minutes Note: Houston dropped a spot following the loss to Golden State
Points Per Game: Houston: 8th – Golden State: 1st
Rebounds Per Game: Houston: 12th – Golden State: 8th
Assists Per Game: Houston: 17th – Golden State: 1st
Opposition Points Per game: Houston: 11th – Golden State: 13th
Notes: Houston has experienced some major shifts in just a week moving up the ranks for assists but dropping dramatically downward in opposition points (thanks mostly to Golden State).
Stats via nba.com
- Houston have yet to break 42% shooting from the field in the 3-games versus Golden State. November 8th they shot 35%, December 1oth they shot 41% and Saturday they shot 42%
- Turnovers have been another key problem for Houston facing Golden State. The worst was the first game November 8th when they turned it over 26 times, however it was the closest contested game.
- With Dwight Howard back the Rockets scored 64 points in the paint Saturday
- While Houston rank first in 3-point makes per game, Golden State ranks closely behind them in third and actually shoot it at a better percent
- Houston rank third in defense of the three while Golden stat rank sixth in defending opponents from behind the arc
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- Houston had been experiencing a rise up the ladder since adding Corey Brewer and Josh Smith to their reserves, but Saturday the Warriors also won the bench battle outscoring Houston: 54-39
- In fact while Houston had climbed up to the middle of the pack prior to playing the Warriors they have since dropped 6 spots following the drubbing by Golden State.
- Like Saturday if the starters can keep each other honest and within reach then the benches will be the factor in the game.
Not much has changed in terms of who the major players are from Saturday: it remains the bigs inside of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut and the back court of MVP candidates James Harden vs Stephen Curry. What changes is how Houston chooses to defend Golden State.
I decided to look more closely at Harden and Curry through the first 3 games:
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Nov 8, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) brings the ball up the court during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 98-87. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
November 8, 2014:
The first match featured no Dwight Howard and established how Golden State were going to play James Harden. Meanwhile Stephen Curry had a solid game and led his Warriors to a 98-87 win
December 10, 2014:
In the second contest once again Howard was not available and while Harden had a better effort his team mates failed to help support the cause as they fell 105-93
January 17, 2015:
This past Saturday it was felt with Howard back the teams would have a truer read of how they stacked up against each other. Howard was one of the only Rockets who had a typical game and in contrast Harden has his worst outing of the 3 games scoring just 12 points.
- Festus Ezeli is listed at out until late January with an ankle injury
- Terrence Jones remains out with nerve damage to his foot
Keys To Winning:
- The biggest difference in the loss Saturday was Golden State chose to place their defensive priority on the Rockets perimeter shooting, and they were more than successful. They not only held Houston to 30.4% they also limited their attempts. By running Houston off the line it disrupted their offensive flow and they managed only 23 three point attempts versus a season average of 33.5 attempts.
- While the emphasis will be on limiting the Warriors back court Houston will need to prioritize their defensive focus because Golden State present one of the most complete offensive challenges. They hit the three, have several players who can drive/create their own shot and they have capable paint scorers. Priority order should be to defend the perimeter, block passing lanes (especially Curry) and defense of the paint in that order. The truth is Saturday there didn’t seem to be any priority for Houston on defense so just having a game plan they stick to will be an improvement.
- Turnovers, is there a more ugly word in basketball? Well for the Rockets to win they’ll need to not only manage their control of the ball, but they’ll also have to do something to Golden State few opponents can which is turn them over.
The odds makers have Golden State favored by 8 points. Given how easily they dispensed of the Rockets on their home court and the fact they are on the 16-game winning streak at home I actually thought it would be higher.
The thing is streaks were made to be broken and we all know the Rockets will be entering tonight wanting to:
- win at least one of the four games from this season’s series
- stop the home winning streak of GSW
- correct the poor showing and embarrassment from Saturday
Bottom line, the Rockets face an uphill battle in this arena, not to mention against the league’s very best team, but we should see a sign of what they are made of tonight in terms of their pride. I expect the Rockets to bring a playoff intensity to the floor with Harden and Howard wanting to propel their team to a win.
I’m not as confident they can get that W at the end of the night however I do think the game will be close. My guess is it will be a 5 point game and we’ll cross our fingers the Rockets end the Warriors streak and come out of Oracle with a big W.