The first round of the NBA playoffs delivered the rematch of the 2015 Western Conference final teams that no one expected to see. The 8th seed Houston Rockets versus the #1 seed Golden State Warriors have been playing at opposite ends of the spectrum throughout the entire season. As of Monday night, the Rockets are already down two games after losing their second matchup against a Curry-less Warriors squad. Golden State’s golden child Stephen Curry sustained an ankle injury during Game 1 and sat out of Game 2. In the absence of the 3-point machine, the Warriors still managed to defeat the Rockets with ease. While not surprising, it’s still a bit disheartening to see the Rockets show glimmers of hope, as they did in the final game of the regular season against the other Curry, only to fall apart at the end.
The most important takeaway from Game 2 is that the rest of the Warriors are pretty good. Klay Thompson (the other splash brother), Shaun Livingston (starter in Curry’s absence),) Andre Iguodala (2015 NBA Finals MVP) and Draymond Green (expert smack-talker but backs-every-word-up) all stepped up as duty called. The thing is, the only way you become a 73-9 regular season winning team is by not relying on one person. The same can’t be said for the Rockets squad who managed to come within 3 in the 3rd quarter but everyone, including James Harden who the team relies on offensively, seems to have lost their composure.
Iguodala likened the difficulty of the game to “… playing a scrimmage in practice.” Wow. It’s becoming increasingly harder to not inject the famous Apollo 13 line in reference to the Rockets’ overall performance this season. It’s clear now that former Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, who had highest winning percentage in franchise history at the time of his termination, was NOT the problem.
If the Rockets plan on doing something drastic, like pulling out a couple of wins, their return to Houston for Games 3 and 4 would be the best time to do it. Since the only thing that cures an ankle injury is rest, Curry will most likely sit game 3 out as his talents will be needed in the event that the Warriors advance to round 2. If the Rockets can manage to come back to Houston with a clear goal of defending the home turf, they might still have a shot at winning the series. Don’t laugh. Defense and confidence go a long way. It’s not over till it’s over.