Game 2 for the Western Conference Finals is set for Wednesday night in Houston. The Golden State Warriors convincingly defeated the Houston Rockets in their own building in Game 1, 119-106. From just watching the teams go at it, it didn't even look like the Warriors had all their guns blazing.
Sure they were locked in and focus versus the opponent that everyone has anointed as their one true challenger, but only two out of their top three offensive players had significant games - and they still beat the Rockets at home. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson (37 points and 28 points respectively) had great nights on the stat sheet, but Steph only had a quiet 18 points. What are they going to look like when Steph is firing heat too?
I'm trying to think of ways that the Rockets can defeat the Warriors in this series. I really am. But the team that just worked their ass off all year for the N. 1 seed and homecourt advantage just lost it in the span of a couple hours. Game 1 really felt like a must-win for Houston based on how lethal the Warriors are. Now they have to beat them in four times out of six more attempts.
Houston's top-level defense is going to have to go up another step, particularly on the perimeter. There were so many times they left Klay Thompson, of all people, wide open for a way-too-easy triple. That can be solved with better communication from Houston's defensive leaders. I'm hoping those wide open looks will become less frequent after Houston becomes accustomed to GS after observing their offense in consecutive games.
Chris Paul will need to average somewhere around 30 points a game for them to compete. He had 23 while shooting 8/17 from the floor in Game 1 while James Harden had 41 on 14/27. Houston didn't get much from their role players in terms of offense in Game 1 either. Only 12 from Clint Capela and 15 from Eric Gordon, while Trevor Ariza had 8 and P.J. Tucker had 1 measly point. Mike D'Antoni is going to need Ariza and Tucker to put up at least 15+ points all the while switching off defending the Warriors' most potent weapons in Curry, Thompson, and Durant.
Durant is such a scheme buster. His size combined with his handles and shooting ability make him arguably the toughest cover in the game today. How does Houston stop someone like him? Everyone they threw at him was either too short or too slow to properly contest his attempts. Their best bet might be to make their off-ball defense a nightmare for Durant to deal with. Doing everything they can to deny him the basketball might be their best shot.
I thought the Rockets were a long shot to win the series in the first place so I predicted they would fall in five games. Now I don't think that a sweep is necessarily out of the questions. What I would love to see is a huge game from Chris Paul. I know he's capable of taking over in big playoffs moments. He did it in the closeout Game 5 versus the Jazz and so many times with the Clippers (even if they were only in the first and second round, Paul had tons of clutch moments). He's Houston's other star after all, so he'll need to show up big time at both ends of the floor. I hope it's competitive, but I think Golden State will come away with another easy win, 120-110.
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