Expect a ton of smallball this series. 1) Because that’s what the Rockets do and 2) because the Thunder don’t have any lowpost threats, you can’t get punished at the other end.
I began wondering which of the team’s smallball lineups had been the most effective.
In the 205 minutes the team has trotted out the quintet of Harden, Parsons, Asik, Delfino, and Lin, the unit has produced 1.126 PPP while shooting 46.8% from the field.
Replace Lin with Beverley and in those 42 minutes, PPP increases to 1.210 but shooting drops to 42.9%.
I then wondered how the team had fared with both Lin and Beverley in the game, next to Harden, Asik, and Parsons. To my surprise, that group hasn’t played a single minute together.
The only other viable smallball possibilities see Garcia replacing Delfino (2 minutes, 1.00 PPP, 25% FG if with Beverley, 6 minutes, 1.00 PPP, 50% FG if with Lin) with either Beverley or Lin at the point.
In theory, I’m a big fan of playing Garcia in tandem with Delfino, but in the 130 minutes those two have shared the court, the team has shot just 44% overall, scoring 1.079 PPP. Ironically though, they’ve held their opponent to 42% shooting and .890 PPP.
To win, the Rockets have to introduce randomness into the equation. In theory, the ideal then would be, rather than playing smallball going big and feeding Greg Smith and Donatas Motiejunas in the post. Why? Because playing small is what the Thunder do best and the Rockets can’t possibly hope to beat them at their own game. Unfortunately, I don’t see either of these two young players being ready to contribute in a big way.
If I were the coach, I would try some stretches with Lin, Beverley, Harden, Parsons, and Asik. That keeps Lin in the game for scoring but also keeps Beverley to harass Westbrook.
The NBA playoffs are all about matchups. In 2005, Houston stole the advantage over Dallas by shockingly inserting Ryan Bowen into the starting lineup in place of a conventional power forward. Bowen and McGrady were able to use their quickness to keep Dirk Nowitzki in check. When the series went back to Houston, Dallas countered by going small, reducing the minutes of Shawn Bradley and Keith Van Horn, and increasing the roles of players like Marquis Daniels and Devin Harris. The Mavs didn’t look back.
To have a chance, Houston will have to get creative and try new things. Hopefully, they’ll make good use of Beverley and his abilities.