That was a great ending, huh? It was interesting to see how each team dealt with the surprise double teams at the end of the game.
First, the Rockets pulled out a double team of Stephen Curry for the last three possessions of the game, and the Warriors didn't deal with it very well. For most of the game that I saw, the Rockets switched screens freely and dared Curry to shoot over their big men (which he did very well).
That Backcourt Trap, 0:41 left, GSW 99-96.
The second to last double team was a very effective backcourt trap of Curry. If this video looks familiar, it's traumatically similar to the way Curry turned it over against the Bulls, when they stole a game in the last seconds.
That's something that the Warriors can and should clean up. If you freeze the play when Curry gets doubled, you can see that Curry had nobody to release to. Then he tries an unwise pass which is deflected. And by the time help came, it was too late and they got the 8-second violation.
I believe the Warriors will never be caught this way again, as there are plenty of inbound sets against the full court press. It was just the element of surprise and I imagine they will walk through one or two basic options tomorrow.
That Barnes Drive, 0:13 left, GSW 99-98.
That Harden Turnover, 0:09 left, GSW 99-98.
Dwight Howard: "Coach wanted to get a timeout in, but it just happened so fast."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) May 22, 2015
Final Thoughts: Curry is the MVP
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."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) May 22, 2015
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.