For the second straight year, the Warriors and Rockets find themselves deadlocked at 2-2 with the series shifting back to Oakland for Game 5, and just like in 2018, the series is defined by earned stubbornness.
Some playoff series are defined by the adjustments one team makes to counter the other, and so on and so forth as the coaches play chess, trying to put their pieces in the best possible positions. In the East, the Bucks took stock of what happened in their Game 1 loss to the Celtics and made necessary adjustments — moving Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup, switching everything on defense, and having Giannis work off the ball more so he can attack once given the ball before Boston can set up a wall at the rim.
In the Warriors and Rockets series, it’s not chess so much as two rams colliding headfirst until one yields. The Warriors won’t completely change their defensive approach in an effort to slow James Harden, as the Jazz did in the first round in trying to replicate the Bucks overplaying Harden’s step-back. Just as the Rockets refuse to go away from their iso-heavy attack with Harden leading the way, even after he struggled to score efficiently in the first two games.
Both teams have a firm belief in their system and approach — bordering on arrogance — that won’t let them make sweeping changes in the midst of a series. The Warriors have earned that right by winning back-to-back championships. Why should they change? The Rockets, on the other hand, are convinced they should have won last year’s Western Conference Finals and believe luck (and officiating) was the only reason they were not in the 2018 Finals.
There’s no great chess match between the coaching staffs, just two teams that are going to try and execute what they do better than the other on any given night. The result has been four incredibly close games as the two teams are confident they know what the other will try to do. It’s also been a somewhat frustrating series to watch.