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Three Lessons From Houston Rockets Game One Defeat

April 16, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots the basketball against the Golden State Warriors during the second half in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 104-78. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
April 16, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots the basketball against the Golden State Warriors during the second half in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 104-78. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets suffered a heavy defeat in the first game of the series against the Golden State Warriors. There’s still time for the Texan team to turn it around, that is if the coaching staff is willing to adapt.

It may have been discouraging, it may have been humiliating and for some it was even a waste of time. Nevertheless the show must go on and the Houston Rockets have to make serious adjustments if they want to challenge the Warriors in game 2, the whole series, or at least to get away with one win in order to avoid the sweep.

Granted the Warriors might be without Stephen Curry in the second game but unless the Rockets themselves don’t make urgent changes, especially in their rotation the outcome of Game 2 will be exactly the same

With no further delay, let’s delve into Three Lessons the Rockets must take from their first match against the Golden State Warriors.

Find a way to stop Warriors sole players

This is a recurring theme but the Rockets don’t have any answer for two players in the Warriors team: one of them is Curry. The other? You might think Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Iguodala? Not really. It’s Shaun Livingston.

His reach, ball handling skills and defensive prowess creates big, huge problems for the Rockets on both ends of the court.

And then even if Warriors premiere bench players like Iguodala struggle, there’s always someone else that finds a way to overachieve. Game 1 afternoon it was Marreese Speights and the Brazilian Leandro Barbosa.

Take a look at the damage a long tall guard like Livingston made to Rockets offense and the dangers of playing against a team surrounded with good shooters.

In the gif above we can see how immediately after Leandro Barbosa scores from the top of the key, Livingston single-handedly destroys Rockets perimeter offense, covering at the same time Jason Terry’s advances and Patrick Beverley’s shot.

If the Rockets expect to have a shot against the dubs, then they must find an answer for Warriors role players.

Josh Smith, Donatas Motiejunas and K.J. McDaniels MUST play consistent minutes in this series

I have given up every single drop of hope I had that J.B. Bickerstaff could fix this team with his current mentality: it’s true that a lot of competent analysts thinks that he might become a great head coach someday and while that might be true, it’s absolutely not true right now.

Nevertheless despite all the substitution zigzagging that Bickerstaff promoted last game it at least fulfilled one purpose which was to find out who’s up for the challenge.  In this instance three players from Houston Rockets bench excelled, the first one: Josh Smith.

To me it was clear that Josh Smith genuinely wanted to contribute and played for the team on Saturday. Sure he fired up 2 from beyond the arc as usual but he was looking for open spaces, driving to the basket, going for the paint, looking to score some points and move Houston’s offense all while Harden struggled.

Josh was truly great for all the 8 minutes he spent in the quarter. Then he never came back.

Next up we have Donatas Motiejunas and K.J. McDaniels.

If you watched the game Saturday afternoon I don’t have to tell you about McDaniels. He was the only Rocket with a +/- stat with a positive +4. He provided defense stability, athleticism, pace, but most importantly: he had an answer for Shaun Livingston as K.J. was able to guard him accordingly.

It’s perhaps too soon or too much for McDaniels to guard Curry but he never had a chance yesterday except for a few seconds before Curry went to the locker room. I’d say let him take a shot: he cannot be any worse than whatever happened in Game 1.

And before the next gif we have to talk about Motiejunas. It’s understandable why Bickerstaff kept him on the bench as he was not only looking for a faster team but a more physical squad. Motiejunas does have a record of being too soft.

Regardless of how you feel on that matter you can’t deny the transformation after Draymond Green shoved him to the ground, the Lithuanian big guy was after blood. He sincerely scared me as he transformed with intensity from that point forward and even if Jeff Van Gundy and ESPN’s crew feel that he can’t post up Draymond Green, I highly dispute that.

Take a look at the next gif and watch McDaniels athleticism and Donatas Motiejunas with a fire in his belly posting up Green.

Work a way around the illegal screens

Finally here’s something Clutch City can’t control. I’ll say this much though: If all illegal screens had been called on Andrew Bogut yesterday, there was absolutely no way he could go beyond the second quarter. He did whatever he wanted and the officials let him get away with murder.

Andrew Bogut almost ran James Harden off the court with the above screen. That was so incredibly blatant I have no words for it.

Now the Houston Rockets didn’t lose Game 1 because of the officiating I’ll acknowledge that. Still, they might lose Game 2, 3, 4 and it may be for that. The Warriors did this throughout the whole season and got away with it. It’s time for officials to put an end to that.

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but unless the coaching staff and the players find a common ground in which they can fight together then the Rockets have absolutely no chance to even make a dent in the Warriors title campaign.

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 1

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 2

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 3

Next: Houston Rockets Daily Rocket Science: As Expected

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