Photo credit: nba.com/warriors
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
The talk of a potential Warriors’ sweep can be put to rest.
After dropping Game 1 Monday night, the Rockets rebounded with a 127-105 victory over the Warriors in Game 2 at the Toyota Center Wednesday night.
James Harden finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds to help Houston regain home-court in the best-of-7 Western Conference Finals series.
“Guys were more active,” said Harden, who shot 9-of-24 from the floor and just 3-of-15 from 3, postgame to TNT. “We played harder and it showed tonight.”
Eric Gordon, who scored just 15 points in Game 1, exploded with 27 points in Game 2, matching Harden’s output. Gordon shot 8-of-15 from the field, including 6-of-9 on 3s.
The play of P.J. Tucker was big for Houston, scoring a playoff career-high 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Tucker was red-hot from 3, knocking down 5-of-6 from behind the arc, bouncing back from a poor Game 1 performance of one point on 0-of-3 from the field.
Trevor Ariza finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and six assists, and Clint Capela finished with five points and 10 rebounds.
Chris Paul scored 16 points and had six assists, after recording just three in Game 1. Paul shot just 6-of-14 from the floor, appeared to be bothered by a lower leg injury in the second half as he ran with a noticeable limp. Paul did sit out most of the fourth quarter when the game was in hand for Houston.
The Rockets dominated Golden State in the second quarter, outscoring the Warriors 38-29.
“We can beat anybody, anywhere at any time playing the way we play,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Sloppy play, lackluster defense and the lack of another scoring option other than Kevin Durant were the main culprits in the loss for Golden State.
As a team, Houston was scorching from three-point land, knocking down 16-of-42 (38.1-percent). Golden State’s perimeter defense against the Rockets was nonexistent in Game 2 from the beginning, allowing the Rockets to drill 10-of-23 3s in the first half. Houston shot 51.4-percent for the game (45-of-88) and out-rebounded Golden State 47-36.
Houston led as much as 19 in the first half and was up 64-50 at halftime. The Warriors did climb back into the game, closing the gap 74-64 behind five points by Durant before Houston increased their lead to 89-72 behind an off-balanced layup by Gordon crashing to the floor, drawing a foul and making a free throw.
Durant finished with a game-high 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the floor, but was a one-man band Wednesday night at the Toyota Center for Golden State.
“We’re not the juggernauts of the NBA,” Durant said. “We’re a good team, but that’s a great team on the other end.”
Stephen Curry had another quiet game, scoring 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field, but couldn’t get anything going from three-point range, connecting on 1-of-8 on his 3s. By hitting just one 3, Curry extended his NBA playoff record to 81 games.
In the first two games of the series, Curry is shooting just 2-of-13 on 3s.
Klay Thompson, who had his way with Houston in Game 1 scoring 28 points, was held in check finishing with just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting (2-of-4 on 3s).
Draymond Green finished with just six points, six rebounds and six assists.
“I think a lot of these games when you get in the playoffs with teams that are very talented and really great team, it often comes down to which one has the edge in terms of the aggression and the desperation,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game. “They were desperate tonight, and they played like it. And we didn’t. And the results showed. We got what we deserved. They kicked our butts.”
The Warriors committed 15 turnovers, off of which Houston scored 15 points. Houston 13 points off 11 first-half turnover by Golden State, which in essence, had the Warriors climbing uphill for the entirety of the game.
Golden State shot 45.9-percent for the game (39-of-85) and were ice-cold on 3s, shooting 9-of-30 (30-percent).
But if you’re the Warriors, you’ve accomplished your mission of splitting the first two games in Houston. With the scene shifting to Oakland for Games 3 and 4, Golden State should feel good about where the series stands right now.
Game 3 is Sunday at Oracle Arena with tipoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific.
Following Game 3, the two teams will play Game 4 on Tuesday, before returning to Houston for Game 5 on Thursday.