- Harry How/Getty
- The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors will face off in the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs.
- The two teams had the two best offenses this season, and while they may seem similar, Steve Kerr explained that the two teams are actually quite different.
- Kerr noted that his system relies on ball movement and gives everyone a chance, while the Rockets are the opposite.
The matchup the NBA world has been waiting for all season will finally take place – the Golden State Warriors vs. the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
The series will pit the NBA’s two best offenses against each other. During the regular season, the Warriors scored 112.3 points per 100 possessions, best in the NBA, while the Rockets scored 112.2 points per 100 possessions, second best.
On the surface, the two teams may seem similar. They both push the pace, bomb three-pointers, and are driven by defense-bending guards.
However, the similarities just about end there. The Rockets are a true Mike D’Antoni team – they play small, fast, spread the floor, rain three-pointers, and rely on the pick-and-roll.
The Warriors, however, don’t play all that similarly to the Rockets. As Steve Kerr explained to Business Insider, the Warriors are actually a much more eclectic mix of offensive systems and have some key structural differences than the Rockets.
“To be honest, our system isn’t really that similar,” Kerr said. “I think our philosophy of pace and three-point shooting was something that I definitely agreed with and Mike had sort of set the tone in terms of the way he was playing with his teams … We took elements of Mike’s offense and implemented those elements into a bigger system that was more our own.”
Kerr saw D’Antoni’s offensive stylings up close when he was GM of the Phoenix Suns and D’Antoni was head coach. He said he was inspired by D’Antoni’s philosophies, but also borrowed from the triangle offense he ran under Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and the motion offense he ran under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs.
Kerr said the roster he inherited with the Warriors also had a big difference that D’Antoni never enjoyed with the Suns – big men who could pass and make plays.
“We were much different than Mike’s teams because we had passing big men and most of Mike’s teams didn’t have passing big men, they had dominant point guards,” Kerr said. “They had rolling big men whether it was [Amar’e] Stoudemire or [Shawn] Marion, guys like that. We had [Andrew] Bogut, David Lee, Draymond Green, great passers. So our system was much different. I think we were near the bottom of the league in the number of screen-and-rolls a game and Mike’s teams have always been at the top or near the top.”
Likewise, Kerr said his experiences as a player shaped the way he wanted the Warriors to play.
“I suppose I’m a little more egalitarian in my approach than Mike. Mike believes in, you got a great player, you give him the ball every time, in Harden and Nash, and it’s very effective. And I feel, maybe because I was a role player myself, I feel there’s a power in everybody touching the ball and everybody sharing in the offense. There’s nobody who’s right or wrong.”
Indeed, follow closely and the two teams’ mechanics to getting shots are fairly different. It’s not unusual to see James Harden or Chris Paul run one play, then pick out their targets like a quarterback analyzing the coverage.
Meanwhile, the Warriors like to pass the ball to their big men, then run their guards off screens, creating confusion until a hole opens up. Watch Pachulia analyze the court while Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant screen for each other, trying to create a mismatch, only to find the open Klay Thompson instead.
Both approaches work. The Rockets’ leap this season that has people wondering if there’s finally a true challenger to the Warriors in the West. The partnership of Harden and Paul and the Rockets’ arsenal of shooters has made them nearly impossible to defend – Harden or Paul can get any shot they like, and when they get the defense to react, they find the open man.
That’s a bit different than the Warriors, who like to use the mere threat of their shooters – Curry, Thompson, and Durant – to poke holes in the defense and then exploit them.
The conference finals should see two historically great offenses going at it, resulting in a compelling chess match.