As I wrote yesterday, it might be time for Mike D’Antoni to shake up the starting lineup with how terrible the Rockets have looked to start each half. One possibility would be to slide Trevor Ariza to the ‘4’, and bring in either Lou Williams or Eric Gordon as a replacement for Ryan Anderson. The other option would be to start Game 4’s hero, Nene, in place of Clint Capela, the latter of whom was a -25 in the box score yesterday afternoon, and overall, has not had a good series, aside from a few moments here and there.
Capela overall has struggled with the Thunder’s length and physicality. Here, Adams contests Harden, but look how fast Westbrook and Roberson converge, causing Capela to fumble the pass out of bounds.
This sequence is the sort that underscores my frustration with Trevor Ariza. Unless its a wide open ‘3’, he has trouble doing anything constructive with the ball. Due to his waning athleticism, he can’t finish over the top like most wings his size, and he doesn’t have the touch to finish with a floater, or the skill to use any misdirection to at least buy himself some space against the defender, the way you see done by guys like Eric Gordon or Lou Williams. What really hurts the offense though are the plays when he has to make something happen out on the perimeter against pressure defense. Since he can only dribble in straight lines, once he’s chased off the three-point line, he usually ends up in a crowd somewhere in the paint. I wasn’t able to find a clip of this since NBA.com doesn’t index-categorize ‘awkward near-turnovers’. Trevor is okay as a backup power forward, because the threat of the ‘3’ is enough to serve utility at that point, but when he’s at small forward, I find myself just longing for a true threat at that spot. You see just how ridiculous the Rockets look the second one of Lou Williams or Eric Gordon checks in, as a secondary ball-handler. With Patrick Beverley’s emergence, if they had that kind of threat (without the defensive liability) in the starting lineup, they could really go to the next level. Houston has bigger weaknesses, at the defensive end. But if they’re committed to playing small and outscoring people, they probably fundamentally won’t be able to address those. In that case, they’ll need to get even better offensively, in my opinion, and the Ariza spot is the obvious area for improvement.
So far in the series, Ariza is averaging 5 points per game on 33% shooting, and 0% on 3’s. On the year, he shot 40.8% overall and 34.3% on 3’s. That just won’t cut it.