Warriors vs. Rockets: Analyst Says Houston Still Has a Chance in the Series

Chris Paul #3 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets

Getty Chris Paul #3 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets slap hands during a 111-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on February 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

On Thursday’s edition of ESPN First Take, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy said that the Houston Rockets can still win the Western Conference semifinals against the Golden State Warriors.

Van Gundy said the Rockets wouldn’t be here or even close to here without James Harden and that he’s doing everything that he can.

He then predicted that the Rockets will win the next two home games.

“Look, the other night 17 turnovers and give up 18 offensive rebounds so that Golden State gets 14 more shots and the game is still close.” “Houston can play and their defense has gotten a lot better.”

What Else Can Harden Do?

Sports analytics and strategy site Positive Residual illustrated that James Harden actually shot as efficiently against the Warriors during Games 1 and 2 as he did during the regular season: 56 percent true shooting but there are two key differences, his higher shot usage and the fact that the Warriors are forcing him into the floater range.

James Harden’s already taken more shots in the floater range (16 / 28% frequency) during the first two games of the series than he did during the regular season against the Warriors (12 / 13% frequency). That’s come partly at the cost of rim attempts (from 20% to 14% frequency).

Positive Residual explained that these stats do not include turnovers. James Harden has had two more turnovers per 100 possessions against the Warriors during the playoffs than during the regular season and his assists are also down from 13 to 7 per 100 possessions.

The Golden State defense has done a great job of preventing Harden from reaching the rim thus far.

Capela and CP3 Have to Step Up

During a recent episode of The Jump, ESPN analyst and former player Tracy McGrady said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni should change the team’s starting lineup, replacing Clint Capela with Austin Rivers and moving P.J. Tucker to center.

The numbers support McGrady’s argument, Positive Residual noted that the Warriors outscored the Rockets by 17 points during Clint Capela’s 27 minutes on the floor in Game 1 and by 19 during his 33 minutes on the floor in Game 2. The Warriors won by four and six points respectively.

Kobe Bryant once said that Harden’s style won’t win a championship and that with Chris Paul the Rockets would have more movement.

Chris Paul hasn’t been playing poorly but the Rockets need more from him. Paul has to be great, being good simply isn’t good enough if he wants the Rockets to get back in this series.

Paul is averaging 17.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals in 38.0 minutes over the first two games of this series, an increase from his regular season averages in points, rebounds and steals but the Rockets won’t turn things around unless CP3 is the best version of himself.

The Rockets committed just four of their 17 turnovers in the second half of Game 2 but failure to take care of the ball early proved to be too much to overcome late. Giving away possessions to a team like the Warriors could spell doom for them. Chris Paul averaged 2.6 turnovers per game in the regular season but he’s averaging 4.5 turnovers in two games in this series.

CP3 is shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from 3-point range in this series but he hasn’t been clutch and when Harden went down with an injury to both eyes the Rockets got a spark on offense from Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon, not from Paul.

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