Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni revealed earlier today that Kevin Durant’s injury helped the Warriors beat his team in the Western Conference semifinals.
D’Antoni was the guest at Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast show “the Woj pod.” The two talked about many things, among them the recent trade between OKC and the Rockets, his view on the stories that there was a tension in the locker room, and all sorts of other stuff.
But the most interesting part of the show was when D’Antoni talked about the rivalry between the Rockets and the Warriors. According to his words, the moment when Kevin Durant picked up the injury in Game 5 of the series was the turning point.
D’Antoni believes that the Warriors changed their mindset after KD strained his calf. He tried to explain that Steve Kerr’s boys felt more relaxed and relieved afterward.
“Going back to Game 5, and then Durant gets hurt,” began Houston’s coach. “To me, it changed the little bit of mentality, from them defending and trying not to lose, and we are hunting them — to ‘o Durant is out’… it relieved them to now hunt us.”
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 15, 2019
What is certain is that the public considered the Warriors as the underdogs without Durant, which placed them in the perfect position. On the other hand, after several years of getting beaten in the playoffs by the champs, this was the ultimate chance for the Rockets.
It was now or never, which put the additional pressure on their backs.
“We can’t lose now,” D’Antoni stated about the position of his team back then. Still, they did.
“Instead of just attacking and just play our basketball, and go after them, I thought that we were a little bit on our heels, psychologically.”
D’Antoni pointed out that without Durant on the court, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson started to splash from all positions. He also mentioned one thing which, in his opinion, had a huge impact on Game 6.
“The biggest thing people don’t talk about, in Game 6 Iguodala is 5 for 6 for threes,” Rockets’ coach revealed what decided that match.
When he and the rest of Houston’s coaching staff made a gameplan for that match, they chose to put more pressure and attention on Klay and Steph, which is logical. But the former NBA Finals MVP used the space given to him in the best possible way, tearing apart the rival’s defense.
The Rockets suffered an elimination against Golden State four times over the last five seasons. During that time, they accomplished fantastic things, among which is the best record in the league back in 2018. Also, their members received several individual awards. James Harden was the MVP that year, and Daryl Morey won the Executive of the Year award.
D’Antoni himself was named coach of the year in 2017, and Eric Gordon was the sixth man of the year.
Still, there was no confirmation for all those achievements in the form of the title. Big expectations were only slowing down the Rockets, increasing the pressure and the tension in the locker room and also, off the field.
It is why the management decided to make a radical change and acquire Russell Westbrook from OKC, in exchange for another superstar, Chris Paul. They will now have two of the previous three MVP’s, and that should bring some noticeable result.