The Houston Rockets used extreme analytics to hang tough with the Golden State Warriors, and Steve Nash recently explained how impressive that was.
When Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, the entire basketball world knew the rest of the league was in trouble. Coming off a year in which they finished 73-9, it seemed almost unfair that they could still afford to sign a player of Durant’s caliber. Throughout Durant’s time in Golden State, the Houston Rockets emerged as the team to play them tougher than any other.
The Durant-led Warriors had a remarkable 16-1 run through the 2016-17 playoffs in his first season, only dropping one game to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 2017-18 season almost ended in disappointment for them after the top-seeded Rockets took a 3-2 series lead, which came at a hefty price of a Chris Paul injury in Game 5.
Even though Houston had the number one seed that year, it still would’ve felt like an upset considering the lineup Golden State was trotting out on a nightly basis. On a recent episode of The Old Man & The Three with JJ Redick, Steve Nash spoke to that effect.
“Before those seasons, it was like — there’s no way anyone’s going to beat Golden State,” said Nash. [The Rockets] were within minutes, shots, plays, of beating them.”
Houston certainly seemed to have control of the series before the unfortunate injury, and they were even within seven points to start the fourth quarter of Game 7 without Paul.
“Houston almost beating Golden State those two years is almost as big of an accomplishment as Golden State winning,” raved Nash. “We lose sight of the context that not everyone can win. Sometimes things have to fall into place to win that the winning team didn’t necessarily do anything extra to create.”
There’s a lot to unpack with Steve’s comments here. For context, the question Nash was addressing was if he ever thinks back to specific moments in his career that haunt him regarding missing out on winning an NBA title.
Nash then used the Rockets as an example of how things beyond your control can sometimes mean the difference between going home with the trophy and going home emptyhanded. That certainly can be attributed to the end of Houston’s 2017-18 bid for a ring.
Though the Rockets came up short in consecutive years against the Warriors, Nash believes what they did should still be appreciated. To catch Steve and Redick expanding more about the Rockets and several other topics, check out the full episode above.