Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: 5 keys to victory for the Rockets against the Warriors

This is a key series for Chris Paul and James Harden. Houston Rockets/Facebook

The Rockets and Warriors took care of business on Tuesday and will meet in the Western Conference Finals.

By finishing the regular season with the league’s best record, the Rockets have clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. In my honest opinion, home court doesn’t matter much when the opponent is as talented as the Warriors. They’ve been through the wars and proven capable of winning on the road. They even climbed out of a 1-3 deficit against the Thunder in Kevin Durant’s last year with Oklahoma City. He couldn’t beat ‘em, so he joined ‘em.

What will it take for the Rockets to topple the Warriors? Here are five keys:

1) Defense! Defense! Defense!

The Rockets defense improved greatly this season. Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute have been excellent additions on this end. Holdover Trevor Ariza no longer is looked upon as their best perimeter defender. Clint Capela raised his stock as a defender as well. He’s now a viable rim protector and solid rebounder. The Warriors won’t beat themselves unless…

2) Capitalize on turnovers

The Warriors will have uncharacteristic spells turning the ball over at an alarming rate. You would think a team with four All-Stars, great chemistry, and tremendous ball handlers wouldn’t be prone to this. They are averaging 16.7 turnovers per game. That’s seven more than the Rockets (9.7 for the mathematically precise). Every turnover must turn into Rockets points.

3) The Draymond Effect

Draymond Green recently admitted to purposely getting under opponents’ skin – a self-professed pain in the ass. The Rockets can’t let Green do his thing. They must ignore his shenanigans and tomfoolery. Vets like Paul and Tucker can help keep the Rockets stay focused when Green tries to sucker them into doing somethin’ stupid. Things like that can sway a game, which can swing a series.

4) 40 Percent-plus From Three

The Rockets are averaging 36.2 percent from 3-point land in these playoffs. You can look it up, the Rockets win when they shoot better than 40-percent beyond the arc and hold their opponent below 30-percent. No doubt the Warriors have more prolific scorers, but the Rockets love to spread the wealth when it comes to shooting from long range.

5) Eric Gordon Must Outperform Klay Thompson

No one is disputing that Thompson is a dynamic offensive threat. He can lead the Warriors in scoring any given game. However, Eric Gordon is a Sixth Man of the Year award winner. He can be a deadeye scorer when he’s hot, an albatross when he’s not. If Gordon can outperform Thompson in offensive production, and contribute on the defensive end, the Rockets stand a good chance of getting past Golden State.

The Warriors have championship pedigree, star power, and firepower to overcome just about any obstacle thrown their way. However, there are a couple below-radar factors that will determine this series’ winner. One is health. The Rockets have been relatively healthy all year, while the Warriors have battled through injuries to key players. Another is home-court advantage. Joel Blank laid out his challenge for Rockets fans to arrive early and get loud. We know that Oracle Arena in Oakland is a hostile environment. Let’s turn Toyota Center into a house of horrors for the Warriors.

 

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans lost again as their road game ineptitude continues. Former Texans stars DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt helped the Cardinals to the 31-5 victory.

1. The lack of talent is getting exposed earlier and earlier each week. The Texans have seen games slip away faster and faster from them each week. The team is overmatched almost everywhere.

2. Penalties remain a problem for the Texans. It seems like clockwork the team gets an illegal motion or illegal formation each week. Jordan Akins torpedoed a drive with a chop block. Max Scharping erased a positive play with a hold.

3. Davis Mills had some solid moments, but again, this team isn't good. It is hard to assess Mills with this team. He's making quicker decisions but he doesn't have the time or the players to make big plays.

4. The offensive line stinks. The interior of the line is still a mess and with Laremy Tunsil down the edges find themselves shaky as well. The running backs don't block well. The blocking tight ends don't block well. It is bad football in what was supposed to be a much-improved unit.

5. Desmond King was the best returner in the preseason. The team elected to give Andre Roberts an opportunity for a few games, but with his departure, the duties went to King. King is the most successful returner the Texans have had in a long while. Yes, it is that clear after just one game.

6. Max Scharping was benched in favor of Justin McCray. McCray produced similar levels of success. Scharping was benched last year for a journey-man veteran as well. The former second-round pick isn't getting it done.

7. Speaking of former second-round picks, Lonnie Johnson had an interception. That was the highlight of his day. Otherwise, Johnson frequently has me asking "what is Lonnie Johnson doing?" The former second-round pick at cornerback has been less than impressive at safety. Johnson seems to frequently be out of position or making the wrong choice in coverage.

8. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid day against the team that traded him away. Hopkins hauled in seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. After he scored, Hopkins looked to bring his hands together and mimic a prayer motion. I don't anticipate this was a nod to Arian Foster but perhaps could this have been about Jack Easterby?

9. The Texans had some sacks, but little of that action came when the game was close. Jonathan Greenard added two sacks to his total. The success Greenard is having is frustrating when you consider he couldn't get on the field last season. Charles Omenihu returned to action and had some pressures for the defense.

10. During the game reports surfaced that the Panthers might be interested in trading for Deshaun Watson. It was also reported by the Houston Chronicle Watson had vetoed a trade to Philadelphia, so the Eagles will not be involved in the Watson sweepstakes. The Panthers can only trade two first-round picks. The Miami Dolphins have three first-round picks they can trade for Deshaun Watson.

11. The Texans decided on a "culture" head coach in David Culley. His team has looked lifeless on the road. While the Texans took their beating, the Lions gave it their all against a good Rams team. Detroit is winless, but they play harder and better than the Texans. It grows clearer each week "culture" is meaningless if the team can't win.

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