NBA Playoffs | Golden State Warriors run away from Houston Rockets in Game One
As impressive as Boston has been in performing without injured stars — and as superhuman as LeBron James continues to be — most NBA fans believe Houston is the biggest challenger in the way of Golden State repeating as champion this season.
After both the Warriors and Rockets breezed into the Western Conference finals, the series everyone had been waiting for finally began.
And it did nothing to change the perception this year’s championship is Golden State’s to lose.
The Warriors triumphed 119-106 to steal home court advantage.
Warriors superior in every facet’
Golden State sent a frightening game one message in the Western Conference Finals, winning comfortably despite a 41-point outing from Rockets star James Harden.
Harden was sensational — scoring 24 points in the first half — but was powerless to stop the Warriors machine in the second half.
Kevin Durant largely erased Harden’s output, scoring 37 points. “Kevin is the ultimate luxury,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “A play can break down and you just throw him the ball. He can get a bucket as well as anybody on Earth … I don’t know how you guard him.”
Klay Thompson added 28 and Steph Curry had 18 and eight assists.
Starting a playoff series on the road for the first time since 2014, the Warriors trailed by as many as nine early, but had evened it up by halftime and used a big run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We’re in the Western Conference Finals they are going to come out with a lot of energy,” Durant said. “We’re going to take that first punch and keep punching.”
Draymond Green recovered from an early technical to finish with nine assists and nine rebounds and controlled the game with his defence.
Eric Gordon opened the final period with a three-pointer to get the top-seeded Rockets within four, but Thompson scored the first eight points of a 13-4 run to make it 100-87 with about eight minutes left.
Houston used a 9-3 spurt, where James Harden scored five, to cut the lead to 103-96 with less than five minutes to go. But Thompson struck again, hitting a wide open three to leave the Warriors ahead by 10 with four minutes left.
It’s the Rockets’ second defeat at home this postseason.
Houston struggled to slow down Durant all night, and things got even worse when Trevor Ariza picked up his fifth foul with about 10 minutes left in the third with Golden State up by three.
Durant made two baskets for the Warriors around one by Chris Paul that left the Warriors up 73-68 a couple of minutes later.
Gordon added a layup for Houston after that, but Golden State scored the next six points, with a three-pointer from Thompson, to make it 79-70 with about four minutes left in the third.
Houston ended a scoring drought of more than two minutes with a dunk by Harden seconds later and the Warriors followed with another run, scoring six straight points to extend it to 85-72 with just more than two minutes left in the third.
The Rockets rediscovered their offense after that, scoring the next eight points, powered by 3s from Gordon and Gerald Green, to get within 85-80 with about a minute left in the quarter.
Durant added two free throws to close out the quarter and leave the Warriors up 87-80 entering the fourth.
“Houston, they never stop,” Durant said. “They are always in the game with three-point shots. We try to get good shots every time down and defend on the other end.”
— with AP
Game one was just 67 seconds old when Draymond Green delivered the first moment of high drama.
After Rockets star James Harden followed an early three-pointer with a lay-up to make it 5-0 Houston, Green gathered the ball and stepped to the baseline to deliver the in-bound pass.
Harden didn’t move out of his way, so the Warriors forward shoved him hard and earned himself a technical.
LeBron James managed to overshadow the fact he played one of his worst games of this year’s playoffs in an embarrassing game one defeat against Boston with an incredible display of his memory in the post-game press conference yesterday.
Asked about a 7-0 run Boston used to kill off the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter, James recalled every play in sequence.
Warriors forward Draymond Green has an impressive memory of his own, once being recorded reciting all 34 players selected before him in the 2012 NBA Draft.
But he was impressed with what James did. “He should’ve gotten more than (an applause),” Green said after morning shootaround in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Rockets. “He should’ve gotten a standing ovation.”
But Golden State coach said what James did wasn’t “that rare”. “Draymond would be the same way,” Kerr told reporters. “We’ll be watching tape from when we played Houston in December or something, and guys will go, ‘Yeah, I remember that this is what happened next.’ I don’t think it’s that rare. But the best players generally remember the most and have the sharpest memories.”
The Houston Rockets have revived Mike D’Antoni’s coaching career after the mentor followed a successful era in Phoenix with failed tenures in Los Angeles and New York.
A large part of his honeymoon in Houston is down to the exploits of MVP favourite James Harden.
Harden has become one of the best players in the league under D’Antoni, and according to the coach’s wife, it’s a true love affair.
“My husband is in looove with James Harden,” Laurel D’Antoni told the Bleacher Report. “I mean, I would like to have a little bit of that love that he’s giving James Harden in my household. But I understand why. Because Mike said he’s the best offensive player he’s ever, ever, ever coached.”