(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Troy Taormina)
The Golden State Warriors went out and grabbed home-court advantage from the Houston Rockets with a convincing 119-106 win in Game 1. Kevin Durant was brilliant as he scored 37 points on 14-of-27 shooting. Klay Thompson also starred with 28 points on 6-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc, most of which were wide-open looks. Stephen Curry wasn’t at his best, but he still finished with a respectable line of 18 points, six rebounds, and eight assists.
But perhaps more importantly, the Warriors defense did a number on the Rockets. Draymond Green once again displayed just why he’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year by coming up with a magnificent performance. He finished a team-high plus-19 on the team.
On the flipside, the Rockets’ supposedly much-improved defense simply couldn’t stop the Warriors. James Harden went for 40 points for the third Game 1 in a row, but he was once again his usually horrific self defensively.
To make matters worse, he didn’t get enough help offensively from his supporting cast. Chris Paul had 23 points while Eric Gordon chipped in with 15 off the bench. But the likes of PJ Tucker, Trevor Ariza, and Luc Mbah a Moute combined for a mere nine points on 1-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
Three keys to the game
Rockets defense - There was hardly anything the Rockets could have done defensively against Durant, who was just making some impossible shots from the midrange all game long. However, to allow several uncontested 3-pointers to Thompson and some easy driving layups from Curry was simply unacceptable from their perspective. They’re going to need to lock in a lot more on that end of the court if they want to overcome the Warriors’ offensive machine which will continuously look for those shots.
Stephen Curry - It’s got to be encouraging for the Warriors that they managed to drop 119 points on 53 percent shooting on the road with Curry not looking quite at his best. The former two-time MVP played within himself, though, as he took care of the ball (he had just one turnover) and provided effort on the defensive end despite getting targeted by the Rockets. Curry hasn’t been great on the road in these playoffs, but if the Warriors can get something closer to a vintage game from him, Golden State’s chances of grabbing a 2-0 series lead will increase substantially.
Rockets supporting cast - As mentioned above, the Rockets’ role players simply didn’t deliver the type of production the team needed from them. Ariza was mired in foul trouble, and Tucker and Mbah a Moute simply couldn’t make up for his loss. Those three are so crucial to their identity defensively, but their inability to provide anything on either end really killed Houston. The Rockets desperately need something from at least two of those three if they stand any chance of salvaging a split at home.
Matchup to watch
Klay Thompson vs James Harden - As good as Harden was in Game 1, he'll somehow have to be even better in Game 2 if the Rockets stand any chance. It's how the Rockets have set up their offense, so Harden has no choice but to deliver. Thompson doesn't have nearly the same pressure on him, but he can just as easily produce another strong performance like he did in Game 1.
Warriors projected starting lineup
PG - Stephen Curry | SG - Klay Thompson | SF - Andre Iguodala | PF - Kevin Durant | C - Draymond Green
Rockets projected starting lineup
PG - Chris Paul | SG - James Harden | SF - Trevor Ariza | PF - PJ Tucker | C - Clint Capela
Durant was absolutely dominant for the Warriors as he put up a masterclass in shot-making. That figures to be the most consistent source of fantasy production for the Warriors moving forward. Thompson is likely a close second, especially with Curry still a bit limited and Green not exactly much of a factor offensively.
As for the Rockets, beware of a potential drop-off from Harden’s production. He’s unlikely to have as good a game as he did in Game 1. To make up for that possible dip, Ariza should have a much better game after being in foul trouble for most of Game 1.
Game 2 is basically do-or-die for the Rockets. If they lose, they’re done. After working so hard to get to this point, it’s highly unlikely that they just lie down in front of their home fans. Expect them to come out with a lot more sense of desperation with their entire season on the line. Ariza and Tucker/Mbah a Moute should play better and hit a few more shots to help out Paul and Harden. Take the Rockets to cover the 1.5-point spread at home in Game 2.
The Rockets manage to salvage a split at home as they take Game 2, 110-102.
This game will be broadcast on TNT. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm Eastern.