Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Coming into this series there was no doubt regarding the wow factor of these two titans squaring up and the first game did not disappoint. After going into the break deadlocked at 56 in a first half that was as tense and tight as the score suggests Kevin Durant scored 12 of his team high 37 points in a third quarter that saw the Warriors gain control en route to an impressive game 1 win.
Durant took on all comers as he was guarded by everyone from Chris Paul (whose strategy to poke at the bear seems to have backfired) to P.J Tucker (obviously) to Nene (yikes). I feel like it bears reminding that Houston is not only a good but a superb defensive team (seriously take a gander at the names on this roster) but tonight it just didn’t matter. KD reached his 37 via 14 of 27 shooting while hitting half of his six three point attempts and making all six of his free throws. He defended well enough but you can tell that he was on a seek and destroy mission and I think we can all agree mission accomplished.
2. Well the Warriors wouldn’t be the Warriors if KD didn’t get a little help from his friends. The biggest helping hand he got tonight came in the form of 28 point night out of Klay Thompson. Thompson served as the perfect safety valve every time the KD couldn’t get to his spot or couldn’t get freed up (which clearly wasn’t often). Klay hit half of his 18 shots and nailed 6 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc. He also laid down some pretty sick D on the Rockets’ wings to boot.
The other Splash Brother isn’t to be forgotten here. Stephen Curry arguably had as much of an impact on the game as Klay despite not quite lighting up the scoreboard. Steph did have 18 points and 8 assists on 8 of 15 shooting but it that may be lost on some given that his three ball wasn’t falling tonight (1 of 5 from downtown). But the not so subtle reminder that he can get to the rack and kill you in the midrange may be more ominous for Houston.
Continuing a trend since game 4 of their previous series with the New Orleans Pelicans the Dubs started Andre Iguodala and once again it worked. Iggy did most of his damage from the charity stripe as 7 of his 11 points came from the line. He was yet another one of the Dubs that came up big on the defensive end. Speaking of defense Draymond Green recovered from an early tantrum in which he picked up a technical foul to have a pretty decent outing with a line of 5-9-9 with a pair of blocks and steals.
Despite being the primary concern for this Warriors team the bench was solid for them. Nick “Swaggy P” Young gave them a boost early finishing with 9 points and Kevon Looney really showed up on defense in his 24 minutes and Shaun Livingston turned in 7 points and 5 boards.
Despite many of us not checking our basketball fan privilege and having the gall to be bored with Golden State tonight displayed what makes them such a great team. It may not look as pretty as you want it to all the time but these guys can dismantle great teams at the drop of a hat and have a shit eating grin whilst doing so. Just in case the last sentence was a little too flowery for your taste I’ll put it in blunter terms, the Golden State Warriors are still lethal and other teams (as well as us fans) would be fucking fools to not remember this.
3. The killer about games like this is when you think about where it got out of hand it’s so hard to put your hands on it. There were no major runs (8 was the largest), you scored the ball well (106 points on 46% shooting not too shabby), hell you had the high scorer in the game (I’ll go more in depth soon he deserves as much). It’s infuriating because you have to dig for the minutiae. Where did this shit go south? Sadly for the Rockets most of said shit was out of their control.
There was some good here. James Harden turned in another amazing performance tallying 41 points and 7 assists on 14 of 24 from the floor, 5 of 9 from deep and 8 of 10 from the line. He was a pain for the Dubs early and was still a worry when it appeared the game was in hand. As proficient as Golden State are on defense the guys like Harden and Chris Paul still cause them (and hell everyone) a bunch of trouble. Paul was good here notching a double double 23 points and 11 boards. Possibly feeling pressure to be more aggressive he figured less into their facilitation and was more attacking.
Finally working through his cold streak Eric Gordon was solid early on tonight before reverting back to recent form finishing with 15-5-3 as he led the reserves. Clint Capela did well in a 12 and 6 effort with a pair of blocks and the H-Tine native Gerald Green hit two threes to kinda make up for the boneheaded fouls racked up.
Okay, this is where I’m going to be not so much fun. Up top I asked a few questions about when the game became out of reach. I suppose the correct answer outside of all the analytical handwringing is that it always was. But if we are going to go into specifics around this (don’t worries we are) there are certainly a few factors we can point to. First, doesn’t it seem funny that when Trevor Ariza (8 points in 23 minutes) caught his fifth foul at the 9:35 marked in the third quarter it sparked that gradual separation between them and the Dubs (in the Dubs favor of course)?
Also, not helpful having your other defensive stoppers contribute absolutely nothing on the other end. In 34 minutes PJ Tucker scored one point going 0 for 3 on shot attempts and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute went scoreless missing all six of his attempts. Look, no one is asking these guys to be MJ and Pip but in a series where you know you can’t keep Ryan Anderson or Joe Johnson on the floor because they are massive liabilities on the defensive end something has gotta shake.
Bottom line, the Rockets are a great team and they have been a fixture in the Western Conference postseason since the last lockout shortened season (six years ago which is no small feat) but in order for them to see their first Finals since winning their last one in 1995 they’ll have to dig deep in an way many feel is unimaginable for this group. Which is sad because this group definitely has the bones of a championship team. But it ain’t the bones were questioning, it’s the heart.