In NBA history, teams up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series win 94% of the time. As the Golden State Warriors head to Houston, they are in great shape to take a stranglehold on the Western Conference series and put the Rockets on the brink of elimination.
Even with the Warriors taking both Games 1 and 2 at home, there is still room for improvement. Golden State played stretches of beautiful basketball by moving the ball, running the floor, and knocking down shots leading to a mega run in Game 2's first half. Consequently, the double-digit lead vanished and they found themselves in a nail-biting final possession that ended on a tactical double-team by the Splash Brothers.
The Warriors will go back to the drawing board and definitely look at adjustments they can make. Firstly, 16 turnovers were committed by Golden State in Game 2. This issue combined with the Rockets' 11 to 7 edge in offensive rebounding produced a seven shot attempt advantage in Houston's favor. With plus possessions, Houston was able to chip away at Golden State's early lead.
However, a major focal point should be finding ways to wear down James Harden who has single-handedly carried Houston's comebacks. Harden is almost averaging a triple-double in this series while shooting a highly efficient 59% from the field. Golden State has thrown a plethora of different defenders at the bearded one but he's still been able to hit tough shots and find open teammates.
The initial option would be to prevent Harden from catching the ball by a hard denial. Taking Harden out of the play would force the Rockets to facilitate their offense in alternative ways. While constant face-guarding of Harden would be tough and tiresome, the Warriors could opt to send more double-teams early in the possession so Houston will have to work with frequent late shot-clocks.
Harden is undoubtedly dangerous in transition and when he gets to the rim, he's drawing fouls most of the time. To prevent foul trouble and stoppage of the clock, Klay Thompson and other wing defenders should live with Harden hitting his patent contested step-back jumper. With all being said, stopping Harden is never an easy assignment but with a strategic game plan, Golden State does have the tools to exhaust him.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have not lacked in the offensive department at all. Their small-ball line-up has been tremendous with Draymond Green at center. Per ESPN Stats & Info, here's how they fared with Green in the middle:
The @warriors have had success w/their "small" lineup, especially w/Draymond Green at center: http://t.co/xuVOHfmBin pic.twitter.com/e7oLdQYLIV— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 21, 2015
Additionally, Harrison Barnes has been an effective contributor and Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland analyzed how Barnes' improvement has mirrored Golden State's ascent.
Finally, the MVP Stephen Curry has been cooking threes, shooting 50% from deep in the Western Conference Finals. Curry is on pace to past Reggie Miller for most three-pointers made in the postseason while playing in fewer games. Via NBA TV's Twitter account:
MILESTONE WATCH: @StephenCurry30 is two 3-pointers away from breaking @ReggieMillerTNT's record #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/MnGV8hQM1r— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 22, 2015
It will take another total team effort from the Warriors to pull out a win in Clutch City. Whether it's hustling for loose balls or getting defensive stops, the bench, the starters and the MVP have a substantial task at hand.