May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) guards Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Paul’s Health:
Interesting conversation I had today with Aaron Bruski regarding the Rockets vs Clippers match-up. Apparently there was speculation Chris Paul‘s injured hamstring wasn’t really badly injured. At the time Paul returned from the locker room I remember thinking I wonder how this injury will affect the Spurs and how they play Paul. It’s a given when a player is hurt the opposing team will do one of two things: go right after the injury or psychologically they pull back because they naturally believe the player can’t perform. In the case of CP3 he is so well respected it makes sense a classy team like the Spurs wouldn’t try to go after the hamstring (well at least without Bruce Bowen or Robert Horry on the squad).
Moving forward, the Rockets need to be careful they don’t back off Paul believing he can’t still light them up especially in terms of running the pick and roll. If McHale is smart he’ll learn from the Spurs and make Paul work hard on the defensive end by running him through screens. In addition, Paul demonstrated issues (before the hamstring pull) having to guard Patty Mills so McHale should put a steady diet of Corey Brewer and Harden on him, both taller guards with speed.
Don’t Look Ahead:
This season the Rockets constantly overcame adversity and part of that was beating the Clippers, a team who historically had owned them. Now as they enter round 2 both teams can’t help but see who is most likely going to be awaiting the victors of this series in Golden State. Sure, the Clippers have their long standing feud versus the Warriors, but the Rockets have their own axe to grind with that squad.
Learning Steph Curry won a MVP in convincing fashion will provide ample motivation for James Harden and his squad to get out of this round and prove once again why they shouldn’t be underestimated. Yet, they need to keep their eye on the team right in front of them. They can’t afford to look past these Clippers, therefore McHale will need to focus their energy and efforts toward that goal.
Learn From the Spurs Series:
Houston utilizes a two-pronged defense guarding the paint with Dwight Howard and their bigs while simultaneously using their number one perimeter defense to shut down the land behind the arc. This opens the middle of the court for mid range shots and pick and roll opportunities. The Clippers utilized the mid-range of the court to garner victories over San Antonio and will look to take advantage of the same area versus Houston.
Therefore the Rockets will need to employ some adjustments to also cater to shutting down the mid range game of the Clippers. Further, depending on how hurt you believe Paul is, this may turn out to be an easier adjustment than anticipated.
Next: Deciding Factors