OAKLAND — At the end of Tuesday’s morning shootaround, before Game 2 of the Golden State Warriors’ Western Conference Semifinals series against the Houston Rockets, DeMarcus Cousins got up shots.
He didn’t move much, but he did give his shots a bit of lift with his legs, an encouraging sign after Cousins tore his left quadriceps muscle in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the Warriors still hope for an unlikely return by Cousins at the end of his estimated six-week recovery time, head coach Steve Kerr was cautious. There was nothing significant to report, Kerr said.
Golden State signed Cousins this offseason for the express purpose of being able to deal with the stouter big men in the league, including the Rockets’ Clint Cappella. Against Houston in Game 1, the Warriors showed they can function well against one of the toughest big men in the league without Cousins. The question now is whether they can sustain it.
In Game 1, Golden State the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Capela to just one field goal. Draymond Green guarded him on 23 possessions, and was markedly effective, holding him to -15.9 in real plus-minus (points below what he would score over 100 possessions).
If you’re guarding Capela, you kind of have to try to keep the offensive player off balance by defending the lob, but also attacking the ball a little bit,” Kerr said. “Draymond happens to be really good at that, and it’s been very helpful.”
Andrew Bogut, too, held Capela on his nine possessions guarding the Houston big man, holding him to a -24.6 real plus-minus.
Capela got up just two shot attempts in 27 minutes on Sunday, and went 2-for-2 at the foul line. His impact on the game — with six rebounds and two assists — was minimal. Against Golden State in the Western Conference Finals last season, he averaged 6.1 shots per game, to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 10.3 points.
“The big thing with Capela, is you want to take away his easy lobs and easy dunks, put-backs, that kind of stuff,” Kerr said. “We did a good job of that in the first game. We don’t really expect that to happen again, where he only gets one field goal. He’s going to be a factor.”
In four regular-season games, Capela went 25-of-45, averaging 14.5 points and 14.75 rebounds as the Rockets won three of four meetings.
“I just think he has to be more aggressive, more forceful, make an impact on the game,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. “We play the way we play. We don’t change things up. It’s not like we are going to post him up three times in a row or something like that. He’ll snap back. He just had a sub-par game and I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t come out and be aggressive.”
After a closely-contested Game 1, out of which spun the narrative about faulty officiating, the Rockets as a team are likely to come out more aggressively. While D’Antoni, Chris Paul and James Harden all griped about landing space fouls they didn’t receive after Game 1, D’Antoni turned that around on the media.
“The noise is coming from out there,” he said, gesturing to the assembled journalists in his pregame presser. “We made our adjustments. We thought we had a good game. We didn’t play great. They didn’t play great, but it was a good, competitive game. I’m sure they made some adjustments defensively and how you guard certain actions. We did the same thing, and we’ll go from there.”