A lot of former NBA players have tried to downplay or discredit the brilliance of the Golden State Warriors, saying, in essence, that they are a product of the soft era in which they play. That, and opposing coaches simply don’t know how to draw up game plans to stop Steph Curry.
Well, Mario Elie isn’t discrediting what the Warriors have accomplished this season, but he does think his former team, the Houston Rockets – who won back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 – would handle Golden State in a seven-game series.
“Man, sorry to say, but these Rockets would be all up in them,” Elie said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “(Hakeem) Olajuwon in the middle, myself and (Vernon) Maxwell and (Sam) Cassell locking in and playing offense, Big Shot Rob (Robert Horry), big old T (Zan Tabak) – we were stacked man. Kenny Smith, Scott Brooks – we just had some hard, tough-minded guys. It would have been tough chasing Curry and Thompson all over the court constantly, but I think we would have had a good chance, especially when we got that big fella in the middle.”
Elie, who won a third NBA title with the Spurs in 1999, is now an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic. He’s watched the playoffs thus far with keen interest and believes Curry, who has missed two straight games with an ankle sprain, is in worse shape than the Warriors are letting on.
“I’m thinking he’s really hurt,” Elie said. “I know Steph Curry is a competitor. I know he wants to go out there and play and you see the difference he makes out there. Their offense struggles with him not being out there.”
Curry had 24 points in 20 minutes in a 104-78 win in Game 1. Golden State scored 115 points without Curry in Game 2 but struggled in Game 3, scoring just 96 – and that was with Marreese Speights scoring a team-high 22 off the bench.
“You see the last two games. You saw the struggle,” Elie said. “When you have a great player like that, he draws a lot of attention and creates easier opportunities for other people. So watching the Warrior game last night, they really depend on Klay Thompson making shots. Usually when Curry and Thompson are out there, you usually depend on both of those guys making shots. There’s always one of those guys on. There’s always one of those guys on. But last night, Klay got a lot of good open looks and didn’t knock them down.”
Thompson shot just 7-of-20 from the floor and went 0-of-7 from three-point range. In fact, the Warriors shot just 6-of-25 (24.0 percent) from distance in Game 3 and 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) in Game 2.
They shot 10-of-25 (40.0 percent) in Game 1.
“With Curry out there, it allows you more space and more time because he draws a lot of attention, whether he’s spot-up ready to shoot or coming off a pick-and-roll because he’s always drawing two guys,” Elie said. “When you’re missing a guy like that – 30 points a game, 40 percent three-point shooter – he’s the guy that sort of stirs the pot for the Warriors.”
Game 4 is Sunday in Houston at 3:30 p.m. ET.