I was waiting for my friend at the bar as the game tipped off. Some esoteric 70’s funk was playing mildly as ambience in place of the usual TNT crew. So it is at bars sometimes. I knew how things would play out almost immediately, but not directly. First Harden broke off Durant with a savage crossover only to airball a wide open 17 foot jumper. I thought, Okay this could work. Those feelings were short-lived. On the next two possessions the Warriors showed their cards. They were out of sorts, Curry throwing errant passes into the stands and Klay looking like this was going to be one of those ‘Come up short’ games. Draymond was passing up open looks only to miss open cutters. It was an off night for sure, and Houston wasted no time taking advantage.
The Rockets came out gunning. And gun they did. The production from the “Star Roll Players” was startling. Tucker and Ariza weren’t missing, which takes pressure off Harden and CP3. The game is much easier for Houston when everyone is touching the ball – it almost feels like it warms to the touch with the energy of the big game scorers – so when Eric Gordon came off the bench and trumped his 1 point game one performance it wasn’t shocking. Discouraging perhaps, but not wholly unexpected. He played a fantastic game. Those three players made it almost impossible for the Warriors to adjust and respond in any meaningful way. Once the Rockets opened the lead to 10+ it became clear that Golden State would have to talk after the game and clarify whatever needed to change in preparation for game three. It wasn’t going to happen during any craftily placed time out by Kerr. The game was a runaway.
Factors for the Warriors to think about are to keep Durant as the focal point of the offense. It might seem like they did that as he had another huge game, but it’s more effective when he brings the ball up and puts pressure on the defense. Forcing the Rockets to switch Capella onto KD creates different opportunities offensively. Curry doesn’t look 100% and Houston is making it difficult for him to find his spots at the three point line. The shots Curry made seemed more strenuous than I think he or Kerr would have liked. He made some amazing plays at the rim, but I’m not convinced that is the best execution to defeat a team like Houston. Work smarter not harder. So by keeping Durant as the main ball handler could ease pressure on Curry and help him find his spark. Going home to Oracle could also be a key factor, of course.
Defensively the Warriors were on their heels from the get go. Switching Curry onto Harden is problematic. Harden cannot be stopped by any defender, and especially the smaller Curry. Not only does it make Houston’s offense more potent because defenders are over-conscious of Harden and his ability to get to the rim, but that makes room for the three point shooters to find their spots – and their rhythm. When more bodies than Harden and CP3 are scoring consistently it is close to impossible to slow them down.
Overall it was a great game for the home team and a step back for the Warriors. No one should panic or get too cocky, as these series play out like this when two excellent scoring teams go head to head. There is a feeling out process, an ebb and flow if you will, to how series like this are conducted. Game three will be a huge signifier. And then game four. At this juncture it’s hard to tell which team will impose their will on the series. For fans this is a great thing. Most intelligent sports fans view this as the Finals before the Finals, so if we get seven games and it comes down to the wire I’m giddy as all hell for what might take place. Just thinking about it makes the hair on my arms stand up. This series is chalk full of amazing future Hall Of Fame talent, and it could be any of them that stamps their mark into history.
For now – on to the next one. Game three can’t come soon enough.