NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Fred Faour: 5 quick thoughts on the Rockets' Game 4 win over the Warriors

Chris Paul came up huge. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rockets came back from their 41-point Game 3 loss to beat the Warriors 95-92 and even the Western Conference Finals at 2-2. Five quick observations on the win:

  1. Paul came to play: Chris Paul was terrible in the Game 3 loss, but he came up huge when it mattered. He scored 27 points and carried the Rockets to victory. He hit big shots, played great defense and was clutch.

  2. A tale of two Hardens: James Harden played like one of the game’s best in the first half to keep the Rockets in the game. But he managed just six points in the second half and missed several chances to close out the game down the stretch. He needs to put two halves together, but his first half performance was key.

  3. Defense! Defense! The Rockets were terrific on defense, especially down the stretch when their offense faltered. Holding the Warriors to just 92 points was huge. The Warriors don't have many 12-point quarters, but that is what happened in the fourth.

  4. Turnovers, again. The team winning the turnover battle has won all four games. The Rockets just had 10, while the Warriors had 16. 

  5. Overcoming a bad start: The Rockets were in a 12-0 hole before you could blink. But they recovered and ended Golden State’s homecourt playoff winning streak. It was a big win. The Rockets were down by 12 in the fourth and still pulled it off.

The bottom line: The Rockets had to have this. They could not go down 3-1. Proving they could win at Oracle was huge. They tried to give it away late, but the Warriors struggled down the stretch, too. The Rockets now return home with a chance to go up 3-2 and we now officially have a competitive series.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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