NBA News

Houston Rockets Return Home For Must Win Game 3

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets

Western Conference Finals: Game 3

Sat May 23, 9:00 PM EST – ESPN, C+D

Toyota Center – Houston, TX

Story Lines:

Can Rockets Break the Losing Streak?:

The last time Houston beat Golden State it was December 13, 2013. The loss Thursday marked the seventh consecutive loss by the Rockets to the Warriors. Perhaps what is so frustrating is after being swept by the Warriors this season by an average of 15. 25 points they lost the two playoff games by a cumulative 5 points and could have won either contest.

Now they find themselves needing to sweep their 2 home games for a shot to stay in the series. Hey, it’s not like these Rockets don’t live for the drama of having their backs against the wall. They became just the ninth team to overcome a 3-1 deficit versus the Clippers and fought through adversity all season when they were decimated by injury. But make no mistake these Warriors aren’t going to roll over and die like the Clippers.

Here’s the numbers for 0-2 teams in playoff series:

  • Lose 94% of the time
  • Only 16 teams have recovered from a 0-2 deficit in total
  • Only 4 lower seeded teams have won a Conference Final after trailing by 0-2 as per NBA TV (the top seed has a 45-4 record all time in this scenario)

Suffice to say it’s not impossible, but losing either of the home games would put them in a hole even these resilient Rockets would have a tough time climbing out of.

Someone Other Than Harden Has To Emerge:

Game 1 Josh Smith played okay, but Terrence Jones was brutal, reverse that scenario Game 2 and no one from the Rockets’ reserves has really raised their level of play through the first two games. It’s almost a complete reverse of the Clippers series where everyone but Harden seemed to be making game winning plays. Harden is definitely motivated on copious levels as he wants to lead his team to the Finals, but certainly in the back of his mind is he wants to prove he was more deserving of that MVP than Curry. Through the first two games of the series (other than the end of Game 2) Harden has been stellar.

Even Dwight Howard who we anticipated either wouldn’t play in Game 2 or would be hampered by his knee pain has contributed with big numbers.

Hopefully the home cooking will ignite a spark from “the others” and we’ll see the team contributing to help Harden and Howard with the load.

Is It Time To Bench Prigioni and Play Nick Johnson?:

Sure the 38 year old was a key contributor in clinching the semi-finals in Game 7, but the fact is the Clippers were still reeling from the Game 6 loss. He’s looked terrible versus Golden State (especially in Game 2) and his defense on Stephen Curry has been non-existent. Prigioni only played 7:17 in the last outing and registered a single assist, a steal and a turnover. Nick Johnson played just under 3 minutes and only put up one shot which he missed but he was a plus +2 in his time on the floor.

My thoughts are why not give Johnson some more run and make his soul responsibility to guard Curry and anything else is gravy. Johnson is known for his athleticism and ability to play defense, so why not capitalize on that. Trevor Ariza has held Klay Thompson in check for the most part so why not get Johnson to play the role of defensive pest on Curry. It can’t hurt to give it a try and if it doesn’t work then you can always go back to Pablo.

Transition Defense:

While the Rockets showed spurts of great defense they still haven’t found the key to stopping or for that matter limiting the Warriors in transition. In Game 1 the Rockets tied the Warriors with 28 fast break points, but in Game 2 Golden State almost doubled the Rockets production (20-11) and there were several periods where several Rockets weren’t getting back at all in transition. This has got to change if Houston want to contend in the series.

Next: Limping Forward?