Mears: Why Iguodala’s Absence Matters in Game 4

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Pictured: James Harden and Andre Iguodala. Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not a fan of James Harden or Chris Paul and want to pick at their games and historical struggles in the playoffs, Game 3 was a masterpiece for you. I mean, this is absolute carnage.

After scoring 129.7 points per 100 possessions and posting a 62.8% effective field-goal rate in Game 2, the Rockets managed just 87.6 points/100 and a 46.3% effective field-goal mark Sunday night. Houston obviously won’t shoot so poorly every game, but in addition to 3-point percentage, there were other concerning marks.

Two data points that stood out to me in Game 3 — and these can be directly tied to the play of Houston’s two stars — were turnover rate and field-goal percentage at the rim. On the first one, a 20.6% turnover mark just won’t cut it against a team such as Golden State. The Warriors can already slice up defenses in the half court; they certainly don’t need help.

In Game 3, the main lineup of Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Andre Iguodala-Kevin Durant-Draymond Green posted a stupid +44.8 Net Rating in 17 minutes together. The Warriors ran in transition on 18.8% of their possessions and added +5.0/100 on those plays. Golden State also frequently pushed off live rebounds. That’s the benefit of playing small with Green at center, and I’m not sure how Houston will counter other than slowing down the pace and being disciplined about getting back. Curry will get hot; it happens. What’s not excusable is letting the Warriors get steals and push in the open court. The room for error goes from almost nothing to … well, you get it.

And on the second point, in Game 3 the Rockets shot just 13-of-27 at the rim, which would rank in the seventh percentile of all games this season. And perhaps even more importantly, they drew just two fouls there all game. For reference, they drew seven fouls at the rim in Game 2 despite it also being a blowout. Harden haters will claim that’s because that type of reliant game stops working in the playoffs and especially in a road environment such as Oracle.

And whether that’s actually true or not, it might be worth going more pick-and-roll heavy in Game 4 and trying to open up easy looks for Clint Capela, who hasn’t been a huge offensive factor of late. He took just three shots in Game 2, which was glossed over because the Rockets won, and he’s being used more as a utility man right now as opposed to a true threat. And specifically more CP3 pick-and-rolls would be nice: Paul has turned it over on just 8.6% of his pick-and-rolls this playoff run. CP3 had just four assists in Game 3. The Rockets have a lot to overcome in Game 4, but maybe that’s a start.

Also, breaking up the Hamptons Five is nice. Iguodala led the Warriors in Game 3 with three steals and is a huge part of why Houston struggled offensively. The betting market largely hasn’t moved with this news, but it could prove to be an important factor. Houston’s biggest weaknesses in Game 3 — getting good looks at the rim and turning the ball over — could diminish simply with Iguodala’s absence.

 

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