PJ Tucker
photo: USA Today

The Houston Rockets are behind 3-2 in the playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, they had won two games on their home floor.

James Harden does the best he can against a defense that always has “eyes” on him, but the most important part for Mike D’ Antony’s team is the contribution of key role players, like PJ Tucker.

Tucker’s contributions made a great impact on Houston’s play. His coach, Mike D’Antony, is using the 34-year-old forward as a center to counterfeit the small-ball lineups of the Warriors.

The veteran made a great impact on both sides of the floor in the two Rockets’ wins. On the third game of the series, in which Houston won in overtime, he scored seven points and secured 12 rebounds.

photo: usa today

In the fourth game, Tucker had his best showing on the offense of his team, when the forward of the Houston Rockets scored 17 points and grabbed 10 boards. 

Moreover, according to the official site of the ΝΒΑ, when he shares the floor with Harden or Chris Paul his team averages a net rating of +5.5 and +5.7, respectively. 

Generally, the Rockets score 111.4 points per 100 possessions and average a +9.1 net rating with PJ Tucker on the floor. There’s great improvement on spacing and movement, their offense is more “fluent”, especially on the small-ball lineups and their defense becomes “stingier”. 

Although he is currently facing one of the most prolific scorers of the NBA, he is doing a nice work on defense. Kevin Durant was averaging 35 points per game in the series against the LA Clippers, while shooting at 56.7% on field goal percentage and 40% from three point line on 7.5 attempts.

Against Tucker, the star of the Golden State Warriors is shooting at 51% on field goal percentage and at 41.6% on three-point percentage on six attempts per game.

photo: NBC sports

You can’t stop one of the best offensive players we have seen playing the game, but you can make him work harder for his points and that’s what PJ Tucker is doing against Kevin Durant on the series.

Speaking to “The Athletic”, the superstar of the Golden State Warriors had nothing but praise for Tucker’s game. He acknowledged that he is making him “work” on offense and that he is one of the best one on one defenders of the league.

“PJ Tucker’s an awesome defender. Awesome. He’s one of those guys at the end of my career, I’m going to put him up there, one of those guys that made me work. So I got my work cut out.” 

The 34-year-old forward is making one of the best runs of his career on this year’s playoffs. He is averaging 11 points and 7.8 rebounds per game at 43.8% on field goal percentage and 45% from the three-point line, while having a career high +6.8 plus/minus on 10 games.

The Houston Rockets come back home for Game 6 and the veteran forward has to be at his best to give a chance to his team to completely change the course of the series against the Golden State Warriors, who are dealing with various injuries on key players.