Game 2 of the Houston Rockets series versus the Golden State Warriors tips off tonight (April 18) with the possibility of no Stephen Curry in the line-up.
Perhaps if fans are looking for a silver lining from the horrible Game 1 loss, it’s that the Houston Rockets can’t play much worse. The other significant factor is there is a real possibility the Warriors best player Stephen Curry won’t be active given his sprained ankle.
Hearing head coach Bickerstaff discussing what adjustments need to be made post practice has me wondering if he even understands his Rockets team. Saying things like “simple we just have to move the ball – – you can’t win and you can’t score if you stand still.” One reporter asked the obvious question “that’s been an issue you’ve worked on for years, can that get corrected in a day?” Again Bickerstaff gives an answer that is head scratching “we are at our best when we are moving, when we are cutting, when we are pushing, we just have to do that.”
Comments like these seem nonsensical given the entire season the team watches James Harden handle the ball, orchestrate shots to men standing still and is predominantly focused on Harden iso plays. Though Harden has had some great assist games for the most part those assists occur early in the game, but end of quarters and the second halves have been all Harden iso’s.
If the team and Harden wanted to move the ball they would have tried harder to work Ty Lawson into the mix or made ball movement a point of emphasis much earlier this season. Trying to fix bad habits going into the second game of a series is not ideal.
— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) April 18, 2016
Dwight Howard also spoke to the media post practice and mirrored Bickerstaff’s comment regarding ball movement. Asked about his thoughts on Draymond Green saying he was surprised Howard didn’t get more touches and the reporter said Green indicated the Howard was getting disrespected. To this comment Howard grinned but was professional in his answer saying he can’t worry about that, and will do what is necessary for the team to win. You have to hand it to Green for stirring the pot on what is surely the main problem between Howard and Harden.
— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) April 18, 2016
Suffice to say the Rockets enter tonight’s game at Oracle needing to showcase improvement on both ends of the court. While the Warriors remain the prohibitive favorites to win the series and title, the Rockets need to play with pride prior to returning to Houston. That more than anything is what the team should be focused on. Otherwise why did they bother pushing to be in this position instead of closing up shop so they could retain their draft pick?
With that here’s the game day preview:
Venue: Oracle Center
Game Time: 10:30 PM EST – 9:30 PM CT
TV: TNT, TSN, CSN Bay Area and ROOT in Houston
Radio: 790 AM and KGO 810AM, KTCT 1050 AM
Last season the Houston Rockets were swept by the Warriors in the regular season a feat they repeated this season.
- Game 1 of 2016 Playoffs at Golden State – Warriors 104 – 78 Rockets
- February 9th at Golden State – Warriors 123 -110 Rockets
- December 31st at Houston- Warriors 114 – 110 Rockets
- October 30th at Houston: Warriors 112 – 92 Rockets
- Stephen Curry, didn’t practice Sunday and remains a game time decision. Expect the Warriors to error on the side of caution here with a view to the long term objective. With a 26 point win differential from Game 1 and a home record of 39-2 it’s doubtful the Warriors will risk Curry if he’s not close to 100%.
- Kevon Looney – hip, day to day
- Sam Dekker – remains out from back surgery
*Assuming the Warriors hold out Curry to allow him to heal Livingston would get the start, and in truth he offers his own set of problems given his length and defensive ability.
*Game 1, coach Bickerstaff started Cory Brewer replacing Motiejunas. Given Bickerstaff’s post practice comments it sure seems like he intends to replicate the line-up despite Brewer scoring just 3 points. On the positive side he did contribute 5 rebounds and 6 of the team’s 16 assists. Those 6 assists were more than Beverley and Harden combined (5).
Key Line-up Notes:
*Game 1, coach Bickerstaff started Cory Brewer replacing Motiejunas. Given Bickerstaff’s post practice comments it sure seems like he intends to replicate the line-up despite Brewer scoring just 3 points. On the positive side Brewer contributed 5 rebounds and 6 of the team’s 16 assists. Those 6 assists were more than Beverley and Harden combined (5).
Though I can scream at the top of my lungs how McDaniels offers intangibles and registered the only positive plus/minus in Game 1 (+4) it’s unlikely we’ll witness his increased utilization in Game 2. Bickerstaff has made a habit of odd rotations and McDaniels is just one of the players who has no true defined role or minutes on the team. If Curry does end up sitting and Livingston gets the start from my perspective the only logical answer is to start McDaniels on him. That said, expect Bickerstaff to stick with the Rockets
point guard Beverley.
To that end, as Andre Cantalogo “3 lessons from Rockets loss” article points out Bickerstaff is terrible at utilizing the roster in a positive way. He specifically points to Josh Smith who in 8 minutes produced 7 points (3 of 4 from field) and an assist, but once removed never saw the court again.
Prior to Game 1, it was noted the only areas the Rockets held an advantage was in steals and offensive rebounds. The other area expected to lean toward the Rockets was at the line. Just to rub salt in the wound the Warriors erased those advantages via out rebounding Houston on the offensive glass and tying the Rockets steals.
Perhaps the area that made the greatest difference was Golden State were disciplined in their defense of Harden. This resulted in the man with the most regular season free throw attempts not getting to the line for a single free throw. biggest
As per the comments Bickerstaff made regarding ball movement, while that is true, more importantly if the Rockets can’t replicate the two areas they hold the season advantage in they have no chance of winning one game let alone more.
Keys to Winning:
Go BIG and force Kerr to adjust to you: With a plethora of front court players who are all versatile Bickerstaff needs to insist Howard gets more touches as a bare minimum. The Warriors are expecting Harden to have the ball in his hand and take the majority of shots, so do something that will throw off those expectations. Further, capitalize on using Motiejunas, Capela and Smith to primarily pound the ball in deep and then use the versatility of the mid range game of Motiejunas and Beasley. At least try to do something Kerr and the Warriors aren’t expecting!
Perimeter defense: With the potential of Curry missing the game (or playing with a sore ankle) the Rockets need to do a much better job on the perimeter. Steph played just 20 minutes and scored half of the Warriors 30 three point total. Whether Curry plays or not Houston need to pick up both Curry and Thompson from the point of ball entry.
Take it to the Warriors from the tip:The start of Game 1 was the Rockets undoing. They scored just 15 first quarter points to the Warriors 33 and by the half had only managed to equal Golden States total from the first half and trailed by 24 points. Regardless of the end result, the Rockets must come out much more aggressive and show greater intensity on the defensive end.
TRUST: As per Bickerstaff’s comment the players need to move the ball and themselves in order to make the Warriors job more difficult on defense. I’d take that a step further and state the obvious: The Rockets need to trust each other. While they haven’t demonstrated that ability for the majority of the season, if they don’t start trusting each other, this could get ugly – – fast!
Play with emotion – I suggested prior to Game 1 the Rockets handle their emotions – – well scratch that, as other than Beverley playing his role of team thug or the players complaining to the zebras there was little evidence of passion on the court.
Show why you fought to make the playoffs: I’m confused! It makes zero sense to me why the Rockets fought so hard not to miss the playoffs. They knew they would face Golden State and would lose their draft pick if they were successful. Why bother doing that if you can’t bring effort and trust each other on the court? If there was one glaring problem on the court aside from a lack of intensity it was how obvious the lack of trust is between the players.
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Even with the uncertainty of Curry not playing the Warriors are favored by 13.5 points with an over – under of 218 points and early action heavily on the Warriors.
I’ll put a caveat on this prediction:
Warriors with Curry by 20, without Curry by 10
After the game look for the post game grades and come join us on that page in the comments section to interact with other Rockets fans who want to discuss the grades, the game and compare how the Rockets performed in Game 2 versus Game 1.
For more exciting news and stories on the Golden State Warriors visit our affiliate FanSided site: Blue Man Hoop
Plus check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Warriors:
Make sure you check out Space City Scoops end of season Rockets Round Table:
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