by Charlie O. Mallonee
The juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors steamrollered the Houston Rockets 104-78 in game one of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs. The Warriors led the game wire-to-wire en route to the win.
The dominate win has been overshadowed by an injury to superstar Stephen Curry. Curry tweaked his right ankle late in the second quarter and had to be taken into the locker room have the ankle re-taped. Curry would return to start the third quarter but played only 2:47 in the period before having to return to the bench.
In his postgame media conference, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr told reporters that Curry would not have been available to return to the game if Houston would have made a comeback. Kerr went on to say that Curry is questionable for game two on Monday night. In NBA terms, questionable means there is only a 50 percent chance that Curry will play.
Curry was the Warriors leading scorer with 24 points in his limited playing time of 19-plus minutes. Not only would the Warriors miss Curry’s scoring punch but the sight of Curry on the bench could serve as real source of motivation for Houston who do not want to go home down 0-2 in the series.
The Warriors defense was as impressive as their offense. Golden State held the Rockets shooting to just 35.7 percent (30-for-84) from the field. Houston who lives by the creed of “score in the paint or shoot the three” shot just 27.3 percent (6-for-22) from long range.
The Golden State defense kept James Harden off the free throw for the entire game. Harden makes his living driving to the basket and forcing reach-in fouls for opportunities to score from the free throw line.
Kerr told reporters after the game that not reaching in on Harden was major point of emphasis for the Warriors defensive scheme. The plan worked to perfection.
The Golden State defense also caused the Rockets to be sloppy in guarding the basketball. Houston turned the ball over 24 times in the game. The Rockets had more turnovers than assists (16). A negative assists-to-turnover ratio makes it literally impossible to win a game in the NBA.
The Warriors held the Rockets to just eight second-chance points. For comparison, Golden State scored 25 points when give a second chance to score.
There will be much talk about the Warriors outscoring the Rockets by 26 points. The real discussion should be about the Warriors holding the Houston offense to just 78 points.
Stephen Curry was the team’s leading scorer with 24 points. Curry went 5-for-7 from 3-point land. He also grabbed seven rebounds, had three steals and dished out two assists in his limited playing time.
As you might have guessed, Klay Thompson helped to fill the gap left by Curry having to leave the game. Thompson scored 16 points but had to take 14 shots to score those points. He was perfect from the free throw line going 6-for-6. Thompson finished with five rebounds, four assists and one steal.
Draymond Green had a double-double game scoring 12 points and recording 10 rebounds. Green led his team in playing time with 33:17 played.
Marreese Speights was the Warriors leading scorer off the bench with 12 points. He shot 5-for-11 from the field.
Andre Iguodala was real force on offense for Golden State coming off the bench to dish out a game-high seven assists.
James Harden was the leading scorer for the Rockets with 17 points but he had to take 19 shots to score those points. He was just 3-for-5 from behind the 3-point line. Harden turned the ball over six times.
Dwight Howard was surprisingly a big factor in this game for the Rockets. Howard has experienced a less than stellar season for Houston. He put up a double-double in this game scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his team.
Patrick Beverley was also a surprising non-factor for Houston on Saturday. After a first quarter skirmish with Curry that resulted in off-setting technical fouls, Beverley picked up three personal fouls and was sent to the bench. He played just 5:10 in the second half after picking up his fourth foul. Beverley finished just two points.
What they said after the game
Steve Kerr evaluating how his team played
“…Very satisfied. I thought our defense was excellent. We didn’t reach. We made them earn every point and we did have the brief spell when Steph (Curry) went out where we sort of lost our focus, lost our poise but we quickly recovered, a lot of guys played but it was a good, solid victory.”
Klay Thompson on the intensity of the game
“It did (get chippy). You expect that in the playoffs.No team is going to lay down against us. I’m just happy we didn’t let it phase us. We’ve got a strong group.”
Houston head coach J.B. Bickerstaff on his team’s first half performance
“One of their strengths defensively is their versatility. They do a lot of switching. They have guys who can defend multiple positions. We didn’t do a good enough job making them pay. When they switch, we have to move more. Instead, we moved less which made us easier to guard. They just sat … they has 10 eyes on the ball-handler. We didn’t put enough pressure behind them, move them around enough so our penetraters could penetrate and make plays for other people. This can’t be a one-sided game offensively. The ball has to move. There has to be a thrust to your offense.There has to be early action, early attacks. They’re too good defensively if you don’t.”
Game two will be played on Monday at 7:30 PM (PDT) in Oakland. The game will be televised on TNT.