It is no secret that the West is where the competition lives in the NBA. Go ahead; find the lie in that statement. That is not to say it has always been that way. There was a time, in yesteryear where teams from the East were feared, but now the only threat coming out of the East is LeBron James. Who’s to say if the NBA did away with the EAST/WEST format that these are the four teams (Rockets, Warriors, Cavaliers, and Celtics) that would be left standing. What is known for a fact is that this matchup in the WEST, the Houston Rockets versus the Golden State Warriors, has been long awaited and without a doubt will be the most exciting series to date. The top two teams in the Western Conference, seeded at #1 and #2 respectively, are now in contention for the Western Conference Championship title. This title has long eluded the Rockets franchise, but now seems within reach after an exemplary regular season and decent post-season thus far.
The Houston Rockets looked unstoppable for all of two minutes, after they exploded with nine points in the opening moments of the first quarter.
James Harden scored the first points of the game with a wide open three. This was followed up with a block of Kevin Durant’s layup attempt on the other end of the floor by Clint Capela. Harden took a hard foul, ruled technical, to his throat courtesy of Draymond Green only to nab another step-back three over Stephen Curry’s defense a possession later.
The game was tied at halftime, but the Warriors made the necessary defensive adjustments and ran away with a 14-point lead in the 3rd quarter.
Unfortunately, the Rockets lost game one 119-106 to the Golden State Warriors at home on Monday.
Harden had a great game. After getting the Rockets off to an early 21-12 lead with a quick 12 points, he finished the night with 41 points. What’s the problem with a 41 performance? Nothing, actually; but when players outside of Harden that typically continue to shoot from the field 5-24 for a mere 15 points…that matters.
“We’re all in this together,” Harden said. “It doesn’t matter who has a bad game or who is missing shots. Keep shooting your shot and being aggressive. We got this far doing that and having that mindset. So we’re just going to continue it.”
The other all-star, Chris Paul, finished with a noteworthy 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists, but with little to no assistance from key role players, the Rockets couldn’t keep pace with the Warriors.
It came down to the overuse of isolation plays by the Rockets. Golden State’s defense forced Houston into a number of one-on-one possessions which is not sustainable against a squad of shooters whose shots are falling.
The other key factor in the game running away from Houston was, of course, Kevin Durant. The man couldn’t miss. Durant finished easily with 37 points. Klay Thompson contributed a quiet but impactful 28 points, and Stephen Curry aided with 18 points.
Who will guard Kevin Durant moving forward? Can anyone guard Kevin Durant?
Coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Durant has a major impact on the game but guarding him is not the quick fix to Rockets success. “He is 7 feet and falling away. He’s one of the best scorers ever, right? So I thought he was extremely good. But we can withstand that,” D’Antoni said after the game 1 loss. “We can’t withstand turning the ball over, missing layups, them getting out. Klay Thompson got up 15 [3-pointers]. We can’t give him 15 3s. We’re switching everything and staying off for that reason, so we have to clean up some stuff and see if we can do it on Wednesday.”