Dubs Lead

What to Expect from the Dubs in Houston

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The series between the Warriors and Rockets shifts to Houston Saturday for games three and four. The Warriors are up 2-0 and are coming in with a lot of momentum. It was two gritty and hard-fought wins for the Dubs where their defense was way better than their offense. After losing two out of the three home games against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dubs were more than happy to wrest some semblance of home-court advantage at Oracle. They now go on the road, which, oddly enough, has been a friendly place for the Dubs all season. They do have to bring their A-game this trip since this will be the most pivotal stretch of the season for the Rockets.

Road Warriors

Some of the Warriors’ best wins this season have come away from Oracle, and their worst losses have been at home. They have often looked bored and disjointed at home. The road seems to bring the best out of them. They seem to embrace the “us versus the world” setting in road arenas. They play with a sharper focus and look more connected. The presence of big Dubs fan contingent in most road arenas doesn’t hurt either.  They have won a road game in 20 straight playoff series and would like to continue that trend over the next two games.

They won all the three road games against the Clippers in round one. However, the Rockets are not the Clippers, and James Harden is no Lou Williams. These games will be daunting tasks for the Dubs as Rockets will be fighting to save their season. The Rockets feel they could have easily won either of the games at Oracle. They did keep it close and will probably tell you in private that the Warriors stole game one. But given how good the Dubs were on defense in both games, the Rockets better come in with some significant adjustments.

Adjustments

Aside from the heightened focus and effort, the Dubs have made several moves that the Rockets have to counter if they want a different outcome in games three and four. First and foremost, the Dubs have pretty much bottled up Clint Capela and the lob game. Here are a couple of examples of the Dubs reading and rotating correctly to thwart the lob and rim runs.

Capela has not played well in either game though his game two output was better than game one. Some folks are suggesting drastic moves like benching Capela in game three. I am not sure if Mike D’Antoni would go that far, but they do have to finish those possessions with a bucket. One option is to have the ball handler use the threat of the lob to keep the Dubs’ D honest, but instead drive the ball deeper and finish the layup himself. They need to outsmart the Dubs’ defenders like Draymond and beat them at their own game.

The other big strategic win for the Dubs has come from their tweaks in handling switches. Both these teams like to switch everything on defense. But the Warriors have been very cautious with it in this series. They have finally figured out they don’t have to switch every screen since Harden and Paul like to isolate and pound the ball coming off these switches. This tactic provides the Dubs with some time and space to re-switch and swap back. The clip below from game one is an example of the Dubs successfully protecting Curry from one such switch:

One counter the Rockets could try here is just attacking quicker off the screens. Instead of using it purely to get a switch and an isolation, traditionally use the pick and roll to attack the rim and cause some chaos. The problem with this approach will be that it takes Harden off of his sweet spot. He is more comfortable isolating and taking a step-back three or driving on the mismatched defender. Is he going to be accurate driving or shooting right at the point of the screen? We shall find out soon, but they may have to force the issue on this.

Home Cooking

Other than these couple of adjustments, there may not be much the Rockets can do tactically to counter the Dubs’ defensive energy and effort. The Rockets seem to have woken a sleeping giant in the Dubs with their officiating audits and memos. Conventional wisdom says role players do better at home and that’s a tendency the Rockets are hoping for desperately. The Warriors bench has been disappointing at home and could be even worse on the road, but the Rockets need more from their reserves especially if the Hamptons five are going to disrupt key contributors like Capela.

I expect a few cat and mouse games between the two teams in games three and four, but it will finally come down to the stars and their threes. The Rockets need either Harden or the role players to go nuclear from three. The bad news for the Rockets is, the Splash brothers have not had great games so far either. You have to assume that some form of a Splash explosion is coming soon. That would be a timely event for the Dubs in games three or four. They would love to win one of those and are set up well to do so in the current circumstances. If they don’t and come back to Oracle tied 2-2, we will have an entirely different series on our hands. The next three days figure to have a significant bearing on not just this series, but this year’s NBA championship.

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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