The Houston Rockets have to limit their mistakes against the Golden State Warriors in order to keep their elite transition offense in check.
In the first two rounds of the postseason, the Houston Rockets have done a fantastic job at taking care of the ball. Houston has averaged just 9.7 turnovers per game in 10 playoff matchups, which is 4.1 less turnovers than their regular season average.
Houston’s three main ball handlers, James Harden, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, are averaging a combined 2.5 less turnovers per game in the postseason. Even against Utah, who has arguably the league’s best defense, the Rockets were able to squeeze the orange and limit easy scoring opportunities for the Jazz.
The Golden State Warriors defensive numbers have slipped a bit this season. Between injuries and perhaps mental fatigue, they’ve lacked some of the fire that we saw in previous seasons. But make no mistake about it, they can still turn up the defensive intensity at a moment’s notice.
In Game 4 and Game 5 against the Pelicans, Steve Kerr made a new lineup change and started his “Hampton 5.” This lineup features Draymond Green at center, with Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala flanking the wings and the Splash Brothers making up the back court.
Previously, this was known as the “Death Lineup,” but the name change doesn’t make this unit any less deadly. With the success that Golden State had with this starting lineup, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Warriors stuck to it for the rest of the postseason.
With four interchangeable forward sized players on the floor, the Warriors can now switch everything. But instead of Paul and Harden going one-on-one against a big lumbering center like Rudy Gobert, they’ll be facing the likes of Green or Durant.
The Warriors destroy their opponents in transition basketball
The Warriors capitalize on transition opportunities better than any other team. In the regular season, Golden State finished first in fast break points (19.3) and seventh in points off of turnovers (17.3). In the postseason, the Warriors are first in those two categories among the remaining four teams.
The Rockets cannot make a lot of mistakes against the Warriors and expect to win the series. James Harden committed 11 turnovers in the last two games against Utah. He’ll look to avoid making so many mistakes against Golden State, via the Houston Chronicle’s Brent Zwerneman.
“I did a terrible job in the last two games in that Utah series of turning the basketball over. (We have) to limit our turnovers. … (The Warriors) are No. 1 in transition, so you don’t turn the ball over and try to play in half-court as much as possible.”
Golden State’s biggest Achilles heel is that they are sometimes sloppy with the ball. The Warriors had the fifth highest turnover average in the NBA in the regular season. The Dubs have done a better job at taking care of the ball in the postseason, but they’re still averaging nearly four turnovers more than Houston.
The Rockets on the other hand, are third in steals (8.4) and tied for first in blocks (6.7) in the playoffs. If Houston can force an already turnover happy team into more mistakes while keeping their own turnovers low, the Rockets will give themselves a great chance to win this series.