The Houston Rockets' small-ball lineup—with James Harden and Chris Paul handling the rock, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon on the wings, and bruiser P.J. Tucker playing the post—made a big difference in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Much of the Rockets' success was owed to the three non-stars from that lineup stepping up and hitting shots.
Ariza dropped 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Gordon exploded for 27, hitting 6 of 9 from downtown. And Tucker played one of the most efficient games of his career, scoring 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting. He also chipped in seven rebounds, four assists, and a steal.
After the game, the 6-foot-5 Tucker was, naturally, feeling himself—and that small-ball lineup. He mentioned that he thinks the Rockets go small better than any other team in the league.
"That's my favorite lineup," said Tucker, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. "We feel like we're the best at that, when we go small. We feel like nobody can do what we do. You want to go small? Alright, fine. We'll go small too. And like I said, our small lineup is the best in the league."
This is noteworthy, of course, because the Warriors are known as the league's small-ball power. Their "Death Lineup," AKA the "Hamptons 5," consists of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green. That lineup has given the rest of the NBA nightmares for two seasons, but it doesn't intimidate Tucker.
Houston will need its role players to continue playing above their pay grade for the Rockets to take down this juggernaut. With the series knotted at 1-1, we have to wait until this weekend—Sunday at 8 p.m. EST—for Game 3 in San Francisco.