Every-Thing Sports

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

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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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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