Exactly one week ago, the Golden State Warriors suffered a humiliating 140-109 loss to the Houston Rockets, the start of a five-games-in-four-days roadtrip that ended with all losses, all poor performances, and the loss of the services of Jarrett Jack in the last three games.
With 72 hours to recuperate, the stage is set for the Warriors' revenge game. With all the subplots involving Draymond Green's flagrant foul on Patrick Beverley's team-three-point-record-breaking attempt, Mark Jackson's strategy of fouling late in the game to send the Rockets to the free throw line to prevent breaking the record, Andrew Bogut's tweet "C U Tuesday" in reference to tonight's rematch, there are three main themes I'd like to touch upon for this game tonight:
- The return of Jeremy Lin and it being Asian Heritage Night (of course!). There's supposed to be a postgame Q&A with him.
- If the Warriors are going to come out and play like they're capable of playing or is the four-game losing streak a disturbing slide going downhill.
- How the Warriors are going to stop the Rockets from making so many threes again.
I'm actually going to focus more on the last two bullet points. The last time Lin made an appearance at Oracle was on December 28, 2011. He entered in the fourth quarter, only played 1:27, and the only stat he had was a missed shot. Expect a huge ovation for him during introductions. You know it's got to be an emotional game for him.
I'll be in the Rockets locker room pregame. Follow me at @poormanscommish.
The only drawback for Rockets in Coach Kevin McHale letting his young bench players do whatever they wanted to do in closing out the game (read: try to break the three-point record) is that it gives the Warriors a little bit more incentive to come out and not dig themselves into a double-digit hole like they've been doing lately. As CSN Bay Area on-air analyst Garry St. Jean mentioned after that game, it's a new generation. Teams don't plan ahead like that anymore, it's more about what have you done for me lately, and to each his own. It's up to the Warriors starters to make a concerted effort to keep the game close for the bench players, who IMHO have actually been holding up their responsibilities.
As everyone from MJ to Matt Steinmetz has been saying, there's no need to panic, but at the same time recognize that there's a fine line between reasons and excuses. Here's my take on what's happened in the last seven days:
- The Dubs waltzed into Houston off of a mini-comeback high from beating the Phoenix Suns at home and underestimated the following players: Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik. You have to respect not only Parsons's shot, but his long first step to the basket (right-handed). With Asik you have to pay as much attention to him as you would a Joakim Noah (which the Warriors sort of didn't do against the Chicago Bulls); he's relentless to the ball. The Warriors also underestimated the pace of the Rockets. So once those two supporting players to Lin and the bonafide NBA superstar (not just All-Star) James Harden got confidence, it became contagious. Also, the Warriors should have gone small a lot sooner. Bogut, in particular, was not ready for the Rockets' style of play. It's hard to be until you actually face the team.
- The loss of Jack has been huge. He's actually the go-to guy, the man with nerves of steel to take over when you really need a bucket or late in the game like you see with more often than not with Kyrie Irving. Someday, it's going to be Stephen Curry and he had an opportunity to take that mantle on the roadtrip. He tried. He couldn't make the shots and he made some bad turnovers. It's only a matter of when and, as is the common theme with the team this year especially with a sophomore head coach, there's going to be growing pains.
- The shifting back and forth of having Bogut and then not having him. You're going with a traditional lineup back to four-option gunner style, then back to a big post style. It takes some getting used to. The team is dealing with that and it's showing.
- David Lee's fatigue. He's given it all this season and it's catching up to him. He's not the most athletic guy. His shot is suspect. But when he's really outhustling the guy he's on, he's a guy you want on your team. That's just what you get with him. I still don't think he should be initiating the offense at all because he's tremendous off-ball, but that's for the players to figure out.
- The string of unfortunate circumstances. So right after Houston, the Warriors had to go to OKC in minivans via Tulsa due to the fog at the airport, all without the services of Bogut. Then they had to turn around and face the bumping and grinding of the Memphis Grizzlies, which wore down D.Lee and Bogut (witness Zach Randolph offensive rebound in which he used his off-arm to pin down Bogut). Then immediately after that, go to Dallas where the fatigue really showed and Curry just wasn't able to put the team on his shoulders.
For tonight, here's how to beat the Rockets. Check out this video on how the Rockets beat the Knicks. It's pretty much the same for the Dubs...
So here's what the Warriors need to do:
- Drop back on Lin and contain him, flush him to his left hand and if he dips his shoulder to go left, go ahead and be physical and take the on-the-floor foul; make it uncomfortable for him to go left. As far as containment, look, if he's making pull-up treys, that's the missing element that completes his game (well, that and left-handed passing, other high-level dribbling skills which I won't get into at the moment), kudos to him. But you want to force players to their weakness.
- Never leave Harden, never leave Parsons, and never leave Carlos Delfino. Those are the shooters. If someone else steps up and knocks down J's, so be it. Again, you have to eliminate their primary weapons.
- Basically, know whom you're covering. If it's one of those three shooters, you really can't leave them. If it's Asik, for Pete's sake, box him out. If it's one of the other bigs, be the guy to help out.
- Play 3-2 zone every now and then. 2-3 might even work. Just to disrupt the rhythm. I know Houston likes to shoot, but they shoot as a result of the penetration.
- So if you're containing Lin, you're really focusing the big man to help on Harden and possibly Parsons or Delfino (you're supposed to be containing and backing up on the younger bench players, who aren't great shooters). The help should hopefully come from the guy guarding anyone other than Asik. That big really needs to read the development of the possession. It's really all on him, especially considering Harden's a superstar who can basically do what he wants. On the PNR, I think you just have to give up the midrange. Harrison Barnes or whoever's guarding Harden should bite on the high PNR, spin back down in recovery. Someone might have to take a foul while he's dribbling. The thing with three-point shooting teams is, they actually don't take a lot of midrange shots.
Please note, the above is all without the benefit of game tape! It's just what I've seen in realtime, and my experiences playing against teams like this in very well-organized Asian-American tournaments where's there's really good below-the-rim team play. In other words, could very well have holes in it.