Mike D’Antoni, head coach, Houston Rockets
D’Antoni might win Coach of the Year, and he’d be deserving of that honor if Gregg Popovich wasn’t worth voting for every year. He piloted the Rockets to a 55-win season when some thought they may not make the postseason. He also turned James Harden into a do-it-all MVP candidate, fixed the chemistry problems that addled Houston last season and created an offense that ranked second in the league, behind only the Golden State Warriors.
He was wonderful this season, he’s the Forrest Gump of the NBA and the postseason doesn’t erase that. However, that turd still stinks.
The Rockets seemingly had no answer for San Antonio’s adjustments in the second round. Part of that fell on Harden (more on him in a minute), but D’Antoni has to be accountable. The Spurs’ pick and roll defense was designed to force the Rockets into shooting the mid-range shots they despise. Sure, it’s inefficient, but D’Antoni should have told Harden to take what the Spurs gave him. A player of Harden’s caliber could have made the Spurs pay and forced the defense to find another solution.
When Nene went down, D’Antoni’s adjustment was to do absolutely nothing. Instead of using Montrezl Harrell — a capable finisher in the pick and roll — for 10 minutes a game, the Rockets went with a seven-man rotation, playing Ryan Anderson at center for stretches. Those lineups did about as well as one could expect. With Anderson at center during the postseason, the Rockets had a 116 offensive rating but gave up 127.9 per 100 possessions. Those lineups saw 64 minutes total, most of them against San Antonio, which happily put Anderson in the pick and roll blender and scored practically at will.
At the end of Game 5, D’Antoni’s playcalling was disastrous. In a tie game with 16 seconds to go, D’Antoni’s ace in the hole was a Harden isolation, which not only failed but drew an offensive foul. Down two with 23 seconds to go in overtime, D’Antoni again isolated Harden and had him pass off to Eric Gordon for three. The only problem was that Harden never drove, or did anything else that might have drawn help. Gordon simply shot a contested three, which didn’t go down.
Houston could have gone up 3-2 in the series with a win, and on their two biggest possessions of the game, they barfed up contested shots — a culmination of D’Antoni’s errors throughout the series.