OKC Thunder: Steven Adams vs. P.J. Tucker will be matchup to watch
The numbers were clear to Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey. Houston was most dangerous with a small lineup on the floor.
“Probably the way we were constructed, we were gonna come up short again,” D’Antoni said Monday. “And why not go all-in?”
The Rockets went all-in in February by trading center Clint Capela to the Hawks in a multi-team deal that sent forward Robert Covington to Houston.
The small-ball Rockets took positionless basketball to its extreme, forging ahead with 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker playing center.
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The Thunder went 2-1 against the Rockets this season, but all of those games were played before the Capela trade. OKC will get its first look at Houston’s small-ball lineup at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Game 1.
While Thunder center Steven Adams will have a significant size advantage in the post, don’t expect the Thunder’s offense to drastically change.
“I think if you just try to come down and post iso or just dump the ball into the post and think, well, they’re undersized … they are very, very physical,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “They’re the second-best post defensive team in the league. Tucker, James Harden, Covington, (Jeff) Green — they’re all really good post defenders.
“People want to look at their size in terms of their height, and they discredit their length and physicality. You’ve gotta be able to generate good action to get good shots because they do a great job of having five guys that are interchangeable. All their players can guard five different positions.”
Tucker anchors Houston’s defense, and his matchup against Adams could play a big part in deciding the series.
“I can’t let him get low,” Tucker said Monday. “If you let him get low, then he’s really a load. I have to fight him free throw line to free throw line. I have to win that battle, because if I let him get lower than that, then it’s going to be a handful.”