Coaches can be notorious dissemblers.
The latest example? Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni swearing that the Rockets wouldn’t use their small-ball lineups in this series, only to use them pretty extensively by Game 4.
“No, we’ll have a center,” D’Antoni told Rockets reporter Alykhan Bijani before Game 1, when he asked if the Rockets would play small-ball in the series. Last year we had [Luc] Mbah A Moute who can give you that. We had Trevor [Ariza] who is longer. Now we have Austin [Rivers] & [Iman] Shumpert, so we’re little bit smaller. It’ll be a stretch to think we’re going with 5 smalls."
Not so: the Rockets played without a center, or any big man at all, for two long stretches in Game 4. One came in the second quarter, from the 6:49 mark to when Clint Capela was re-inserted with 1:16 left in the half. The most crucial, though, came in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets used P.J. Tucker as the biggest man on the floor from 9:01 to 2:21.
D’Antoni, though, had a good reason: Capela is sick, diagnosed with adenovirus and klebsiella by a doctor Sunday according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. He certainly didn’t play at his best, scoring only four points in the 27 minutes he did play. Give credit, too, to the Jazz’s stout defense, which always made sure to rotate over to prevent Capela’s trademark lob finishes.
But the lineup never really worked. In the first half, the majority of the credit should go to Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who found a way to impact proceedings defensively even as P.J. Tucker tried to pull him out of the paint. The Jazz rotated and helped prevent Tucker from taking and making too many threes, nor did the Rockets find any success inside.
The fourth-quarter stint, though, was largely dominated by Favors. That’s when the Jazz big man picked up four offensive rebounds, leading to two more, as the smaller Tucker, Gordon, and Harden couldn’t find a way to handle Favors’ prowess on the glass.
“We went small and that lineup, Favors was getting his hands on those rebounds and tip-outs and things like that. Whenever we do go small and get that lineup in, we have to make sure we put a body on him and gang rebound. That was the game,” James Harden said. “It’s just draining when you’re playing great defense and you give up offensive rebounds.”
Capela was told he’d be dealing with the sickness for another four or five days, so he’ll still likely be at less than 100% for Game 5 Wednesday. But the small-ball look hasn’t been very productive for the Rockets, either, just as D’Antoni himself predicted.
Maybe coaches do tell the truth.