Tonight, NBCSN is re-broadcasting the 2015 Western Conference Final Game 5 with the Houston Rockets vs GSW.
This game featured solid performances by Stephen Curry (26-8-6-5), Harrison Barnes (24 PTS) and Klay Thompson (20 PTS), and one of James Harden’s worst playoff performances.
This game also included the infamous Ariza knee to Klay’s head…
The whole series leading up to this was actually rather thrilling, despite the lopsided series score.
We had a crazy ending to Game 2, Houston’s best chance to steal home-court.
Afterwards, I editorialized:
I don't know how Houston usually deals with crunch time Harden double teams, but they looked quite unprepared for it on that last play. Curry and Klay played it as if Harden would never let anyone else take the shot, and that paid off.Stephen Curry: "You saw James (Harden) kind of put his head down, you knew he probably wasn't going to pass in that situation."
In contrast, the Warriors have been dealing with Curry blitzes for two years now, so on their last play, Curry freely gave up the ball, and trusted three complementary offensive players to make the play. Andre made a smart play (terrible pass), and if the pass were normal, Barnes would have had a dunk.
This might be a case of confirmation bias, but I happen to believe that if a team relies on a single scorer/playmaker (here Harden, or think Russell Westbrook without Kevin Durant, or Michael Jordan before the Triangle Offense, Lebron James before the Heat spread attack) then the rest of the team loses the sharpness to contribute offensively, and they are vulnerable to having their star blitzed. We saw it with Curry last year, we saw it with Kobe Bryant and Jordan (without the triangle), and we saw it with Harden at the end of this game. Steve Kerr has spent the year building an offense where everyone on the court plays a part, cuts or screens, and throughout the game, everyone has to make decisions and reads. This offense isn't to help Curry. He can score in any offense. It's to help Klay become an all-star, and the others to become stronger. Curry's willingness to give the ball up has given his team a chance to grow up, and that's why the talk of Curry's having a stronger supporting cast has always been a point FOR his MVPness, not against.
The Rockets have an offense where Harden often isolates, he makes the decisions and the others space and they shoot if Harden draws help. During the huge Rockets comeback without Harden, more than one observer noted that the team played with better flow and confidence without Harden. I know that one defensive principle of the Warriors is to not double-team a small, but I suspect in Game 3 they are going to mix in surprise double teams here and there, and force different members of Rockets supporting cast to make pressure decisions.
And in Game 3, the Warriors started to put the clamps on Harden with, yes, double-teams and shadows.
Anyway, enjoy Game 5!
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