The Houston Rockets are trying to completely change the way the game is played. They were all-in on small-ball, up to the point where they even traded away Clint Capela and don’t even feature a player above 6’7” in their starting lineup.
The Rockets don’t mind giving up that many inches. They’ll lose the rebounding battle but will be slimmer, faster, more athletic, and ready to pull up from beyond the arc every single time. If they get out-rebounder, so beat it, they won’t be outrun.
However, there are two sides to each story. Sometimes their lack of size may be an advantage, sometimes it won’t. The Los Angeles Lakers have a huge edge in terms of size and would be wise to make the most of it in this series. Let’s break it down.
Russell Westbrook (6’3”) vs. LeBron James (6’9”)
Russell Westbrook has the strength and athleticism to match up vs. bigger players but having to deal with LeBron James maybe just too much to ask from him. He’s 6’33 to 6’9” and LeBron is one of the strongest players in the history of the game.
James has had his way with Westbrook thus far this series, swatting his shots with chase-down blocks, posting him up, and going at him in the post every time he’s got the chance of doing so. He’s taller than every player in the Rockets’ lineup.
James Harden (6’5”) vs. Danny Green (6’6”)
Danny Green has been pretty bad in the playoffs offensive-wise but his defense is as good as ever. Then again, there’s only so much you can do when you’re trying to guard James Harden, arguably one of the greatest scorers to ever make it to the league.
Harden’s post defense has improved a lot over the years. He’s also doing a great job of staying in front of Danny Green every time he shoots. Green’s struggles may not be related to Harden’s defense but at least he’s not giving him any easy buckets.
Eric Gordon (6’4”) vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6’5”)
Eric Gordon is perhaps the most undersized small forward in the league. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has done a solid job at contesting his shots but Gordon has still been pretty solid from a couple of feet beyond the arc, as well as holding his own on defense.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has also struggled a lot to get anything going in the offensive end but he’s been very good at using his length to bother Gordon. Eric Gordon is a solid finisher below the rim but he’s just not getting any easy lanes to the basket.
Robert Covington (6’7”) vs. Anthony Davis (6’10”)
First and foremost, I’d like to say that Robert Covington is the ultimate 3-and-D player and a guy every coach would kill for. He’s capable of guarding power forwards and centers despite giving up size thanks to his instincts, awareness, and quickness to move his arms and hands.
Then again, there’s not much he or anything can do to defend Anthony Davis. Davis should make the most of his height advantage and get deeper paint touches. He’d be better posting them up rather than taking contested jumpers in the elbow.
PJ Tucker (6’5”) vs. JaVale McGee (7’10”)
Many people argue that JaVale McGee is unplayable vs. the Houston Rockets and they may be right. He’s bigger and more athletic than PJ Tucker but his presence truly hurts the Lakers’ spacing to match with their all-shooters lineups.
Tucker has done an incredible job at guarding him, LeBron, and Davis despite giving up that many inches. He plays defense with his entire body and he’s perhaps the strongest 6’5” guy you’ll find in the league. The Lakers should play Davis at the five instead of McGee.
Credit: Hoops [Right Now]