There was a lot of outside noise from the Rockets following Golden State’s Game 1 victory.
There was the report that Houston has been meticulously keeping track of missed calls when they play the Warriors. They lobbied hard after the first game at Oracle about the Warriors encroaching on their landing space.
And yet all Houston succeeded in doing was making the Warriors angry. It showed specifically in Golden State’s defensive intensity, resulting in a 115-109 victory to take a 2-0 series lead Tuesday.
The Golden State defense was locked in from the jump, forcing the Rockets into nine first quarter turnovers. The Warriors, starting Andre Iguodala, kept applying pressure and playing passing lanes and forced the Rockets into 17 total turnovers, matching their total number of assists.
Iguodala finished with 16 points on a combination of 3’s and dunks, constantly found open by Draymond Green out of the pick-and-roll.
That has been Golden State’s best offensive play this postseason, getting Green into a four-on-three situation and letting him create, mostly finding Iguodala on the oop.
Green said that it’s a read he’s comfortable making anytime he gets the opportunity:
“Kind of a feel thing. Always been something that’s worked for us over the years, not just these two series. The way people guard nowadays, we don’t get it as frequent as we used to maybe in like 2014, ’15. Nonetheless, when the play is there, you’ve got to take it.
While Green has been the creator on offense, on defense, as always, he’s the catalyst. But the whole “Hamptons 5” unit played its part throughout the game.
Steve Kerr said that, against this Rockets squad, it takes the whole team to play good defense:
“I’ve said it before the series: it has to be a five-man game when you play Houston to guard them. You have to have all five guys engaged. Our weak side came over and did a good job tonight.”
They once again limited Clint Capela, who had 14 points, but whose usual lob threats were snuffed out time and time again. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson played the help-side exceedingly well and rendered Capela borderline useless on offense.
Green said the key to stopping the lob is everyone just doing their job:
“You just have to trust your lane. We had guys on James (Harden), got to trust that. Pick and choose your spots. That’s been key for us. We gave up a couple of them tonight we shouldn’t have. I mean, they’re great at that. You’re not just going to completely take it away every time.”
Meanwhile, Kevon Looney may need to teach a class on defending the undefendable Harden. He has yet to reach on a single jump shot, and didn’t miss a close out on the shooting hand side. All while avoiding anything that can be construed as a landing space foul.
Durant said that the defense helped kick-start their offense when it was struggling:
“I think that’s going to keep us in it on the offensive side, even if shots aren’t falling, we got to bring it on the other side of the ball. I liked the sense of urgency we had all night. They made some nice shots, but I think we just played hard.”
Harden also battled injuries as he was forced to leave the game after being poked in the eyes going for a rebound. He stayed on the ground for some time before walking to the locker room with a towel over his face.
He finished with 29 points after he returned but had to work for every look.
The Warriors had their own superstar injury problems.
Stephen Curry, who was already battling an ankle injury, dislocated the middle finger on his left hand early in the first quarter. He returned with it taped up, but had trouble finding his shooting stroke with the extra bandages.
He finished a miserable 6-of-16 and just 3-of-13 from deep while looking very uncomfortable dribbling and shooting. He still battled, but settled for too many deep shots despite being a perfect 3-of-3 from two-point range.
Even a dislocated finger couldn’t stop Curry from reaching, and once again he was forced to the bench after picking up his third and fourth fouls ear;y in the third quarter. With him on the bench, Kerr was forced to go to a makeshift lineup that featured Jonas Jerebko and Shaun Livingston.
It’s what kept the Rockets close — that and their 3-point strokes, as they got some huge 3’s from Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Austin Rivers, who went a combined 10-of-18 from deep. After shooting just 29 percent from deep in Game 1, the Rockets shot a much-improved 42 percent Tuesday, outscoring the Warriors by 18 points from 3.
Kerr said that this is going to be the story of the series:
“I think this is how this series is going to go. We can play well, but it’s going to be really hard to pull away from Houston with the number of threes they take and the number of talented offensive players they have. Despite that quick start, we were fighting them off the whole game.”
It kept them dangerously close throughout the contest, in a game that felt like the Warriors should be up comfortably. But some timely hoops from the dependable Durant and Thompson getting hot from 3 at the right time pushed the Warriors ahead for good.
It was a controlled win from the start, and yet the six-point spread shows that the Rockets are never truly out of a game.
After a quick start to this series, these two teams will enjoy a long break as they won’t take the court again until Saturday, three full days of rest.
After all the talk about the refs, landing space and missed call reports, it looked like the two teams decided that there was enough talk. There was no complaining after calls or arguing — even after Draymond Green got called for his first foul on block of Clint Capela, he simply handed the ball to the ref and moved on. It was a welcome change from Game 1 as both teams constantly complained after every call, although it failed to last the entire game.
Green said all the talk after Game 1 was something he hated to see:
“It’s kind of embarrassing for the game of basketball, how much it’s been talked about, fouls and officiating. What about beating your man? What about stopping your man? Nobody talked anything about schemes the last couple days. All about foul calls.”