Mar 6, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots the game winning three point shot against Sacramento Kings small forward John Salmons (5) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Sacramento Kings 87-83. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets

Maybe it’s just me (it’s not), but the Golden State Warriors haven’t inspired a whole lot of confidence lately.

As remarkable as Stephen Curry’s recent emergence as a bona fide star has been, the Warriors have lost nine of their last 14 games. And although their offense has averaged 100.1 points during that period (well above the league median of 98.0), in hasn’t been nearly enough to compensate for a defensive effort that allowed 105.6 points per game from their opponents.

With playoff seeding on the line, that sieve-like defense could be problematic against the Houston Rockets, whose league-best offense is 2-0 against the Warriors this season. Over their last 10 games, the Rockets have averaged an astounding 112.3 points per outing, well over the 107 points per game they’ve averaged to date, according to www.basketball-reference.com. The Rocket’s effectiveness has been spurred by James Harden, who has tallied an impressive 27.8 points, 6.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds over that period.

The Warriors are coming off their ugliest win of the year, and although Klay Thompson has earned the right to celebrate after knocking down a critical go-ahead three ball, it doesn’t hide his inconsistent play during Golden State’s most recent skid.

Thompson’s averaged a solid .380 from beyond the arc in his last 14 games, but if you exclude his last three outings (15 of 27 from three),  that average falls to a Jamaal Tinsley-esque .298.

Part of this has to do with where Thompson is taking his shots. The sophomore shooting guard converts just over 37 percent of his three point attempts from the wings, which is where he’s taken 28.34 percent of his shots this year. That ability to convert shoots up when he moves over to the right corner, where he has netted 35 of his 73 attempts.

As you can see, Thompson is clearly more comfortable shooting from his right. And even if the defense forces him inside the arc to shoot, he’ll be moving into a space where he’s been the most efficient all year – mid-range along the baseline.

Of course, smart defenders are almost certainly aware of this, and Thompson’s rapid development in his rookie and sophomore seasons has probably led coaches to develop schemes that force Number 11 to take more shots from the left side.

Fortunately the Warriors, the Rockets are no one’s idea of a defensive powerhouse (they allow 103.8 points per game, 29th in the league)[1]. And if you want more evidence as to why Klay should shoot from the right hand corner, remember what happened on Wednesday?

WHO: Golden State Warriors (35-27) vs. Houston Rockets (33-29)

WHERE: Oracle Arena

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

AT STAKE: The Warriors face the Houston Rockets for the third time this season in a game that has important repercussions for the Western Conference playoffs.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Stephen Curry. Curry struggled in a sloppy game against the Kings; he should be able to bounce back against a weak defensive effort from the Houston Rockets.

PREDICTION: The Warriors finally (barely) notch a win over the Rockets, 108-104.



[1] A lot of this has to do with the pace at which the Rockets play, but even adjusting for that, most analysts hold low opinions of the Rockets’ defense.

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