Quite often we look to role players to determine who comes out on top in a series. Superstars on average are what they are, but the emergence of effective role players can be the difference maker. Eric Gordon is the catalyst that can take the Houston Rockets to the next level. He is the staple that’s the difference between an NBA Finals run, or a short playoff stint. He’s the Rockets third most dynamic wing player and showed flashes of potential in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Although he began the game 0-for-6 shooting from three-point range, he can get hot with the best of them. He finished 4-for-13 from distance, which is an anomaly compared to his regular season average of 36 percent.
His mere presence on the floor forces the defense to stay honest. This opens driving lanes for James Harden and Chris Paul to be aggressive.
Eric Gordon dials up the triple in #PhantomCam! He has 24 PTS on the day! #NBAPlayoffs #RunAsOne 83#StrengthInNumbers 87
📺: #NBAonABC pic.twitter.com/wt0ABzff59
— NBA (@NBA) April 28, 2019
His lackluster three-point shooting in Game 1 shouldn’t overshadow the fact that he was a perfect 6-for-6 from inside the line. That kind of efficiency is what the Rockets need for any shot attempts that are not from deep. His ability to create in a one on one situations as well as run the pick-and-roll provides versatility. When he, Harden and Paul are on the floor together, defenses are troubled knowing that penetration can occur from anywhere.
Eric Gordon AND-ONE! #RunAsOne #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/rAbbBqZ5kD
— NBA France (@NBAFRANCE) April 28, 2019
He’s been the third leading scorer on the team this season and should look to continue with that level of aggression. While there is potential for Harden to be fatigued, and Paul to be injured, Gordon can step up to relieve that pressure. The Warriors seemed hellbent on eliminating the Clint Capela lob in Game 1, which brings further opportunity for Gordon to fill that scoring void.
The numbers can always tell you the story you want to hear, but what they don’t measure is confidence. Eric Gordon plays with the grit and self-assurance of someone who believes they belong on the floor for extended minutes. Yes, you’re playing the two-time defending champions. But if you don’t believe you can beat them, why play?