After the loss of Stephen Curry, the Warriors came out and took advantage of some very shaky Rockets play. It's human nature to relax a tad when the other team's players go out (see Dubs last year in Memphis G2, Cavs G2). But these Rockets were already playing on the edge of competence, and the Warriors got their bearings and made the Rox pay for sloppy play. First, there were the three consecutive terrible Rockets turnovers on fast breaks at the start of the third quarter. That was six points right there.
Let's focus on what I consider the real turning point in the game. At the start of this sequence, the Warriors are four points up. By the end, the Dubs will be 9 points up and the Rockets will lose the will to fight.
Part 1. Cool HORNS Play
This starts in HORNS (two smalls in the corners, two bigs at the free throw elbows, ball on top). Klay Thompson starts in the left corner and swoops and curls all the way around the right elbow screen from Festus Ezeli. Trevor Ariza avoids the screen and two Rockets collapse on Klay's curl. In the meantime, the original right elbow, Harrison Barnes, clears out to the left side and curls around a screen from the left elbow Draymond Green. A neat little play.
Klay wisely swings the ball through Shaun Livingston to Harrison Barnes, who gets an open three. Even though he misses, this is a good shot, and a fine offensive rebound from Ezeli. Why is Barnes so open? Rewatch and have a look.
He was guarded by James Harden all play -- the Rockets have had luck hiding Harden there -- and for some reason Harden never follows Barnes to the left side of the court. He loses interest crossing the lane and lets Barnes go. If you love someone, set them free. Harden stays so long in the lane it was a three-second violation. the foul isn't called, so Shaun drives at Harden and dished to Barnes who was open (as he has been for the preceding five seconds).
Part 2. Dray Burns Motiejunas
This is short and sweet. Donates Motiejunas left Draymond space to shoot all game. This was either because he is too slow to close out, or by design to bait Dray into taking threes, or possibly a combination. In any case, Draymond realizes he will get space every time, so he fired up (and made) threes with authority (he was 4-4 after this play). In this case, Ezeli has just gained the Dubs another possession and the Warriors are reseting. Watch.
This play is nothing fancy. Draymond sets a little back screen on Klay's defender Ariza, and then quickly cuts to the arc and, seeing that DM is giving him space, fires up a confident accurate three.
Part 3. Harden's Adventure
I think this play was the killer. Seven points is not a big lead. However, recall that the previous play, four Rockets bolted around playing energetic defense while Harden pondered life's mysteries in the lane by himself. Now Harden comes down and gets a high pick from Motiejunas and then fires up a contested three with 16 on the shot clock. If you were the other Rockets, how would you feel about hauling butt and getting back on defense? Let's see.
As the shot goes up, Dwight Howard is the only one rebounding. This is typical nowadays to only send one rebounder and to have the other four drop back to prevent the fast break. This is especially important against the Warriors. Also as the shot goes up, the shot contestor (Dray) leaks out in case of a lucky rebound. After a moment, Klay also takes off. Ariza and Jason Terry are in the corners, so they don't have a chance to catch up unless they completely sprint, a tad hard after going hard on defense just a second ago.
This leaves Motiejunas and (wait for it) Harden who have the responsibility to stop the fast break. DM actually gets back as fast as he can... he pushes his bulky Lithuanian turbos hard and catches up in time to make Klay give it up to Dray for the dunk.
Harden, on the other hand... well, instead of backpedaling after the shot, he drifts towards the basket, and then closes out on Livingston. He needs to just get in a defensive stance and stop Livingston, or jump straight up. Instead, Livingston gives a little ball fake and Harden flies by. This gives Shaun a clear look at the pass for a two on zero. Great rebound, great pass, tired defense.
It's a bit of a fashion to make fun of Harden's defense. But it must be exhausting for the other Rockets to grind hard on D to cover for Harden, then have to immediately run back to cover again after a quick Harden solo shot. When Curry takes those quick shots, he's been busting his butt on defense, and he usually backpedals right after the shot. That's not (just) arrogance, that's good defense.
After this sequence, the Rockets looked not just tired, but sick and tired of it all.
I am sad. Curry's injury looks pretty bad, and even a best case scenario would have him playing after a couple of weeks, and not at full strength. If his season ends this way, at least we got to see the greatest offensive season in history and the greatest regular season in history. Tomorrow's not promised, so appreciate today.
Without Curry, the Warriors are going to have to emphasize their gritty defensive side to keep them in games while they wait for fast break opportunities and Klay shooting streaks to get separation. The big loss is that the Dubs now don't have anyone to create shots when all are exhausted and the opponent's defensive intensity is highest. So basically, they will turn into this year's Hawks team. But with home court advantage and stellar coaching, they will have a puncher's chance at winning any series. My (completely unfounded) feeling is that they'd roughly have odds of:
So, GO BLAZERS, GO THUNDER !!!
Bonus Illegal Screens
I can't believe how the Warriors' most evil invention, illegal screens, is sweeping the nation!! How could the Warriors brainwash every other team into setting illegal screens?????
I didn't have to go looking far. These were just the first three tweets with screens that I saw a couple of days ago.
Aaaand here's where it started. pic.twitter.com/VApip7fQll— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 21, 2016
Mozgov shoves Stanley Johnson on first screen. Pelvic thrust on second screen. Lebron gives little push off to get ball, then bigger straightarm on drive. Damned Warriors!
LeBron dunks, then stares down Johnson the whole way. pic.twitter.com/gQ2MJBFHcB— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 21, 2016
Delly, of all people, sets a completely legal screen. Lebron is too wide and moves sideways on screen to bump. DAMNED DUBS.
Morris does something to LeBron on this closeout, watch LeBron's face after. pic.twitter.com/zDcaWVnu17— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 21, 2016
Tristan Thompson sets a moving screen. Heavens! DAAAAAMNED WARRIORS!!