The Rockets will win this series with or without Chris Paul if the Warriors keep playing soft like they did in Games 4 and 5.
These are the issues they must address to beat the Rockets.
1. Can the Warriors ever get into an offensive flow against Houston’s defense?
The Warriors failed to crack 95 points the past two games. They need to play significantly better on offense to win this series.
Which seems strange, because in those two games the Warriors shot a higher percentage from the field and on 3s than the Rockets. And yet, the Warriors still lost. Here’s why: they shot lots of contested 2s, while the Rockets shot lots of open 3s. The Rockets got better shots than the Warriors.
In Game 2, the Rockets outscored the Warriors from behind the arc by 21 points, and won by 22. In Game 4, the Rockets outscored the Warriors from behind the arc by nine points, and won by three. And in Game 5, the Rockets outscored the Warriors from behind the arc again by nine points, and won by four. The 3s have been the difference in the series. Every time the Rockets make more 3s than the Warriors, the Rockets win. That’s their formula for victory — bombs away.
The Warriors used to have the same formula. Last season, they scored on average 14.2 3s per game on 37.2 attempts in the NBA Finals. This season in the conference final, they’re averaging only 10.7 3s per game on 29.6 attempts.
That’s a formula for losing.
2. Can Kevin Durant ever play Warriors basketball and not just James Harden basketball?
It seems Durant has a personal competition going with Harden, his former teammate, over which player can score more points one-on-one against the other team. Durant is winning his competition, but hurting his team at the same time.
Every time Durant catches the ball inside the 3-point line, he does the Rockets a favor. The best shot he’ll get from that spot on the floor is a contested 2-pointer, and he most likely won’t pass.
Steve Kerr took Durant aside during a timeout in Game 5 and basically told him not to be a ball hog, to look to pass before shooting. Durant has 10 assists and 10 turnovers in five playoff games against the Rockets — he’s trying to win by himself. He’s playing like he did in Oklahoma City, when he was a high-level loser.
He’s not executing the Warriors offense, which is based on passing and cutting. Durant is killing all of that motion. They have to stop running their offense through him so much if he doesn’t get with the program.
3. Can Stephen Curry ever become a superstar in this series?
The Warriors wouldn’t have to run their offense through Durant if Curry weren’t content with a supporting role. He seems like Durant’s kid brother on the court. Just passes Durant the ball and runs away from the play.
Curry used to be aggressive. Now, he’s passive, almost like a role player. During Game 5, one of the television announcers said the alpha male on the Warriors was Durant, not Curry. Really? I thought the Warriors were supposed to be Curry’s team.