HOUSTON — All of the playoff games at Toyota Center have gone the Rockets’ way this year.
Their undefeated at home in the 2019 playoffs, winning three games against Utah in the first round and now protecting home court against the Warriors.
We know what to expect from the Rockets when they play at home. Maximum effort. Contributions from the supporting cast. And a win.
It’s the road games where it gets a bit dicey for Houston.
And that’s not to say they’ve played terribly away from the Bayou City.
In Utah’s only win last series, the Jazz played with a level of desperation down 3-0 that the Rockets just failed to match. They closed out Utah at home in game 5 and never had to go back to Salt Lake City, which Chris Paul admitted they didn’t want to do.
The Warriors only beat the Rockets by a total of 10 points in games 1 and 2 at Oracle Arena. And while game 2 didn’t seem as close as the first, the Rockets had to feel good about themselves coming home.
But in a back and forth series like this one, neutralizing a team’s home court advantage is key. Neither team has been able to do that so far this series.
It’s tied at two games apiece and only one point separates the two teams through four games.
“We definitely have to be better (on the road),” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said after the game.
Gordon pointed out how he and his teammates still left points on the table in Houston, missing a number of open shots and allowing Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry easy looks at the end of game 4.
This can’t happen if they want to win in the Bay. The Rockets have to continue to be physical and maintain their intensity.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr compared the Rockets’ physique to that of linebackers, his own team’s to volleyball players. It speaks more to how Houston is approaching this matchup.
“Very physical,” Gordon said describing the series. “We’ve got to go on both ends of the floor and we got better starts. A team like that, they’re going to always make runs throughout the game. I just like our intensity.
“It’s an intense game. It’s going back and forth, a lot of change of leads. We’re just going to continue to keep fighting. And we just took care of our part winning both games at home.”
Considering how poorly they shot from 3-point range in game 1, it’s a miracle Houston was still in it toward the end.
The Rockets shot an abysmal 14-of-47 from deep, albeit rivaled by the Warriors’ 7-of-22 showing from 3. The Rockets shot the ball well enough to win game 2.
Golden State, however, separated itself with better starts than the Rockets in both games at Oracle.
In the first two quarters of games 1 and 2, the Warriors outscored the Rockets 57-39. In the remaining eight quarters of those games, it’s advantage Rockets 170-162.
Overcoming early deficits against the Warriors isn’t impossible. We did, after all, watch the Clippers come back from down 31 to win a game against them in the last series.
For Houston, the early moments have been the difference in winning and losing in Oakland.
PUSH THE BALL
Make or miss, it’s important for the Rockets to keep running. Their smaller lineup with PJ Tucker playing center is one that allows them to matchup with the Warriors athletically.
Chris Paul said Monday night he’s made more of a conscious effort to push the ball to shooters like Gordon and Austin Rivers.
“If we get the ball out quick and kick it up to them, I don’t care what the matchups are. They’re tough,” Paul said. “We know we’re (an isolation) team also, but at the same time if we get the ball up the court and put pressure on them, that’s when we’re at our best.”
It’s basically out-Warrior-ing the Warriors. The Rockets did it at home. They have to do it on the road.
“They’re putting pressure on us,” Tucker said. “They’re doing it. They’re getting it out. They’re pushing it. … Steph comes down and he hits a 3. Now we turn around and take it out quick, turn right back around and go right back at them, that’s hard. …
“That’s something we didn’t do as much in the first game and the second game. But we’ve got to get the ball out of the net, push it back at them and get our shots off and attack them.”
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