Photo by Troy Taormina/USA Today

Breakdown: How Transition Defense Cost Rockets In Game One Loss

Rockets allowed 18 fast break points in game one

May 15, 2018 - 12:03 pm

By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

Before the Western Conference Finals started, the top two on my list of keys for the Rockets to beat the Warriors were to limit turnovers and transition defense, a sentiment that James Harden agreed with.

“That’s it right there,” he said Friday. “"They're number one in transition. Whether it's the 3-ball or getting layups, so, you don't turn the basketball over you make them try to play in the halfcourt as much as possible to give yourself a chance, but if you're turning the basketball over or taking bad shots they're getting their swag up and things like that." 

In the Rockets 119-106 game one loss they were bad in both aspects, turning the ball over 16 times, a postseason high, and allowed 18 points in transition, after surrendering just 10.4 fast break points per game in the series against Minnesota and Utah.

Turnovers happen, and while 16 is a lot, it isn’t a huge number, and to be honest, that didn’t stand out to me as much the Rockets defense in transition. It was bad, and they allowed things to happen that should never happen, especially in the Western Conference Finals against the defending champs.

After a made basket, the Rockets allow a wide-open Kevin Durant 3-pointer, and all it took to get it was Durant jogging to a spot and Stephen Curry passing him the basketball on a shot fake. This is laughably bad. After a made basket with the Warriors jogging the ball up the floor, the Rockets can’t even get matched up correctly. Now there is a small excuse here, it was the first defensive possession following a timeout where both teams made a pair of substitutions, but then it happened again ON THE VERY NEXT POSSESSION.

This time after a made basket they simply get beat down the floor. “Some games, some series you may make those mistakes and guys don’t make the shots, but tonight, every time we did it they made the shots,” Chris Paul said.

Believe or not, it happened again.

That’s eight points the Rockets just gave away in a 12 minute span, but at least that’s easy to correct, at least it should be, however, some of the Rockets fast break defense issues are just going to be there, like on this Klay Thompson trey in the third quarter.

Pay close attention to where Harden and Clint Capela are standing when Curry starts to push the ball up the floor.

They are both behind the ball, and it didn't help that Harden kind of ran into the Rockets center. It’s hard enough to defend the Warriors 5-on-5 so 4-on-3 is a disaster waiting to happen, especially when three of the Warriors four are some of the best players on the planet, but floor balance is going to be an issue for the Rockets in this series. They like to keep a player in both corners, and when Harden drives to the rim and misses like he did there they will be vulnerable, especially when a teammate is under the basket with him. You just have to live with a possession like that and this:

 But you can’t live with everything:

Draymond Green should never, ever, ever beat you down the floor like that, and neither should Durant:

The good news is that most of this is fixable. The Rockets can take better care the ball. The Rockets can get back quicker on defense. The Rockets can communicate more effectively to figure out matchups on the fly, but if it doesn't get fixed by Wednesday, the Western Conference Finals will be over before you know it.