The Houston Rockets are an isolation heavy team, but they relied too heavily on 1-on-1 play against the elite defense of the Golden State Warriors.
Game 1 didn’t go as planned for the Houston Rockets. Golden State’s offense was firing on all cylinders and Houston didn’t seem to have an answer for how to stop them.
Kevin Durant proved that the mid-range game in the NBA is alive and well. KD was unstoppable in the mid-post, nailing jumper after jumper as P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza and James Harden failed to bother the 7-foot scoring machine.
Houston’s defense was also far from great. The Warriors had too much breathing space on 3-pointers and too many easy driving lanes. Golden State killed Houston in transition and they generated so many more open looks than the Rockets.
Houston averaged 15.6 isolation plays per game in the regular season, which easily led the NBA. According to Second Spectrum, Houston ran an eye-popping 45 isolation plays in Game 1, which is the most by any NBA team in the last five years.
The Rockets will continue to run a lot of iso plays because it’s the exact type of offense that helped them win 65 games in the regular season. But 45 isolation plays in one game is excessive and perhaps counterproductive.
Eric Gordon wants the Rockets to run less isolation plays
Eric Gordon said that Houston needs to cut down on the isolation plays against a team that is so talented defensively, via The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.
“I definitely would like to get the ball more for me to be aggressive and get good looks. Offensively with everybody, we really don’t get real good looks. … We can’t isolate as much against a good defensive team. I don’t care who you are. We have some of the best isolation players out there. But against a team like that, it’s going to be too tough.”
Houston got away with more isolation plays against Utah because Rudy Gobert simply couldn’t defend Harden and Paul one-on-one. Since Utah couldn’t switch on pick-and-rolls involving Gobert, Paul especially was able to get to his spots and shoot whenever he wanted.
Golden State didn’t play any of their lumbering centers in Game 1, so they were switching either Draymond Green or Kevin Looney on Harden or Paul, who are capable perimeter defenders. So the Rockets decided to run a lot of screens with Stephen Curry involved to get him switched on to Harden. This is a favorable matchup for Houston, but it also became very predictable, which made it easier to defend.
Houston needs to run a few more plays in Game 2. They need more off the ball movement with guys cutting through the lanes to get the defense moving. Standing around and watching Harden dribble at the top of the key for 20 seconds each possession from start to finish won’t beat the Golden State Warriors.