The Rockets had a plan. They were going to force Steph Curry to defend James Harden one-on-one, stick longer defenders on Curry to harass him on the perimeter, use Clint Capela’s length to disrupt Draymond Green’s pick-and-roll maneuvers, and pounce on any defensive lapses by kicking it out to their army of shooters. Some of it even worked in Game 1! Harden scored 41 points and every shot he made looked difficult. Green was quiet, and Curry only made one shot outside of the paint. But none of that matters. Even if the Rockets execute their game plan perfectly, the Warriors have Kevin Durant, who can’t be schemed against.
Curry and Green combined for only 23 points last night, but Durant comfortably picked up the slack with 37 of his own. I’ve never seen 37 points in a conference finals look so easy. While Curry was forced to deal with defenders buzzing all around him, Durant just kept receiving the ball and shooting it over whatever puny Rocket was flailing around at his waist. If the Rockets are a monument to efficiency and the little percentage advantages you build up by making your entire offense a monument to three-pointers and layups, Durant’s dominant Game 1 performance was a reminder that none of that shit matters if you’re really tall and good at basketball.
Albert already pointed out how funny it is that the Rockets are getting beat at their own dreadful iso-ball game, and I’d like to note that it’s funnier still that Durant is exposing the philosophical limits of Houston’s reductive math basketball by destroying them with the sorts of “bad shots” that they cut out of their diet.
P.J. Tucker is ostensibly Houston’s best defender on Durant, and he even kept his chest on his man here. It didn’t matter, because Durant is seven feet tall and he can just drop the ball into the hoop.
Durant was similarly unbothered by Capela.
There’s nothing the Rockets can do against Durant. Chris Paul could perhaps chip into Durant before he receives the pass and keep him from establishing catch good positions, but he’s a foot shorter and it doesn’t matter where Durant catches the ball. Ariza is longer than Tucker, but he’s not longer than Durant, and also he needs to stay on Curry or Klay Thompson. Capela stands the best chance of actually blocking one of Durant’s shots, but he needs to stand in the lane or at Draymond Green’s hip, and even then it’s not like he’d erase Durant. Their best chance is to just hope he misses shots, which should tell you all you need to know about how long this series will last.