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Chris Paul’s struggles in isolation could cost Rockets their season

Houston Rockets star Chris Paul has averaged just 14.6 points per game during his current playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

Paul has been guarded predominantly by Golden State’s Klay Thompson during the second round series. He has matched up against Thompson for 155 possessions through five games, scoring just 18 points. He has scored 11.9 points per 36 minutes with Thompson on the court but 26.3 points per 36 when the Warriors wing rests.

Golden State defensive coordinator Ron Adams recently spoke about how effective Thompson has been on Paul (via NBC Sports):

“I like what Klay is doing on defense. His effort has been high and he’s making sure Chris feels him.”

When the 34-year-old has been locked up by the 6-foot-7 wing, he has connected on only 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) of his looks from the field. The performance has slowed the Rockets, who rely on Paul for their offensive production when the game does not run through James Harden.

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As noted by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Houston’s Chris Paul is averaging 0.77 points per possession when facing defenders in isolation thus far in the playoffs. That has been the root of the struggles on the offensive side of the ball.

That ranks in the 30th percentile among all in the postseason, per Synergy Sports Tech. Paul has had a turnover on 13.6 percent of these opportunities, which ranks fourth-worst among the 21 players who have finished at least 15 isolation possessions.

His assist-to-turnover ratio (1.75) has been significantly worse than what he has recorded during his regular season career (3.98).

When including his passes, the numbers look even worse. Paul has actually been the least efficient among the ten high-volume players who have finished more than thirty isolation possessions during playoff action.

Yet it is how the veteran has finished approximately one in every four of his offensive opportunities. That is a higher frequency than all 71 players who have recorded more than two iso-based possessions except for his teammate Harden and Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

His recent slump on one-on-one matchups has been particularly concerning considering when including postseason minutes, no team has given up more points when guarding isolation than Golden State (10.8 PPG) has this season.

This could have been a huge chance for the Rockets, the league-leaders in iso-scoring (23.5 PPG) to capitalize on against the Warriors. Perhaps when they face Golden without Kevin Durant on the court, it can open up the floor for Paul.

If he continues to struggle when taking on defenders one-on-one, however, it may spell the end of the season for the Rockets as this team essentially lives and dies by the iso.

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