Underdogs for the First Time with Curry and Durant, Scrappy Warriors pull off Upset in 119-106 Game One Win
The time has come, the most anticipated playoff matchup of the 2018 NBA season kicked off on Monday, May 14. The Golden State Warriors (8-2) went on the road and traveled to Texas to take on the Houston Rockets (8-2). The Warriors weren’t playing Game 1 at home for the first time since Coach Steve Kerr assumed his role, and the Houston Rockets were relying on home court advantage to give them the necessary jolt of energy required to take down the Warriors. The Rockets had a better regular season record than the Warriors, but at times had looked a little enigmatic during the first two rounds of the playoffs, while the Warriors looked unbeatable since the return of Stephen Curry. The Rockets were being led by the likely MVP in James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela. The team had a 50-5 record when all three of the aforementioned players played, whereas the Warriors were 45-10 in games that Stephen Curry played. This was a matchup of the two best teams in the NBA, in a Western Conference Finals that would likely determine who would win the NBA Finals. The Warriors went on to pull off the miraculous upset and win 119-106.
The first quarter got started by James Harden drilling a three, and then followed that up with a nice bucket around the rim on Kevin Durant. Draymond Green then shoved Harden and picked up his second technical of the playoffs. Stephen Curry started the scoring for the Warriors with a scoop layup after the technical free throw. Harden then drilled a step-back three. Harden had the first nine points for the Rockets, who were looking just as good as advertised in the opening minutes. The Warriors were hanging around though, and hit two threes courtesy of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Andre Iguodala picked up two quick fouls and had to check out of the game within the first three minutes, and Draymond Green was looking a little out of control early, but the Warriors were down just three points at the time of the first timeout with just under seven minutes left in the quarter. The score was 13-10 at the first break. Kevin Durant got going after the timeout with a nice turnaround jumper for his first points of the game. That was the only shot to fall in between timeouts for the Warriors though. The Rockets went on a run 8-2 run between the first two timeouts that featured a three from Eric Gordon, another step-back three from James Harden, and a powerful slam from Clint Capela. The run forced Steve Kerr to call a timeout with the Rockets leading 21-12 with five minutes left in the quarter. The Warriors went on a run after that timeout to cut the lead back down to four points. The run saw four points from Kevin Durant, who threw down a dunk in transition, and then made jumper of James Harden. Klay Thompson hit another perfect three just before the timeout, and on that play, James Harden got hip-checked by Kevon Looney and appeared to be hurt. The Rockets called timeout with three minutes left in the quarter and their lead at four points. Kevin Durant exploded in the last three minutes of the quarter, hitting a huge three and an incredible turnaround jumper while being mauled by PJ Tucker. Nick Young also hit a three in between those Durant jumpers, and the Warriors cut the lead to just one point by the end of the quarter. As a team, the Rockets shot 50% from the floor and 38.5 (5/13) from three in the quarter, while the Warriors were shooting 57.1% from the floor and 55.6 (5/9) from three in the quarter. Kevin Durant was leading the way for the Warriors with 13 points, and James Harden had 12 to lead the Rockets. After the first quarter, the Rockets led 30-29.
Chris Paul hit a three to open the scoring in the second quarter, but the Warriors got two easy layups on cuts from Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston to tie the game. The Warriors then took a lead on a layup from David West, and the Rockets tied on a shot from Eric Gordon. Nick Young then hit his second three of the game to take the lead, which again did not last long thanks to another three from Chris Paul. Shaun Livingston then connected on and and-1 jumper to re-take the lead. The Rockets then tied the game on a three from Trevor Ariza, but the Warriors took the lead again on a Kevin Durant jumper over Chris Paul. By the time the first timeout had been called with just under seven minutes left in the game, the Warriors had a two-point lead in what was an extremely eventful six minutes of play from the second-unit of both teams. Kevin Durant opened the scoring after the timeout with a turnaround jumper over James Harden, which Stephen Curry followed up with a tough layup. Neither team scored on a couple consecutive offensive possessions, resulting in another timeout. This timeout came with 4:30 left in the half and the Warriors leading the Rockets 47-42. Following that timeout, Stephen Curry connected on another tough layup. The Rockets then went on a run to tie the game, and they did so with an exclamation point as James Harden drilled another step-back three and three down two dunks, one of which was monstrous. The Warriors hung around though, getting some quick points on a mid range jumper from Klay and another three from Nick Young to tie the game at the half. Kevin Durant was still red hot in the second quarter, and had 17 points at the half, which was the most on the team. Klay Thompson was the next-highest with 12 in the half, while Stephen Curry and Nick Young both had nine points. James Harden was the leading scorer from both teams in the half, with 24 points on 8/12 shooting. Chris Paul was the next-highest scorer with 11 points. As a team, the Rockets shot 46.5% from the field and 42.9% (9/21) from three in the first half, while the Warriors shot 54.8% from the floor and 41.2% (7/17 from three. At the half, the game was tied at 56 points.
The third quarter started with a dunk from Andre Iguodala, and the Warriors began to take off from there. They were scoring in a myriad of ways, from Andre dunks to Klay layups and finally to filthy iso possessions from Kevin Durant, who was still as hot as a blowtorch. He had 26 points by the time the first timeout was called with seven minutes left to play. The Rockets weren’t going away though, as James Harden was still scoring. He had 30 points by the time of the first break, and was doing a good job of getting Clint Capela involved on offense. The Warriors were attacking Trevor Ariza early, and he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls as a result of that. The Rockets were attacking Stephen Curry, and while he was getting scored on, he was not fouling, which was huge for the Warriors. At the first timeout, the Warriors led 73-68. Following the timeout, the Warriors went on a nice run to extend their lead to eight points. During the run, Klay Thompson hit a three and Andre Iguodala threw down a dunk after an incredible defensive play from Stephen Curry. With 5:22 left in the quarter, Mike D’Antoni called timeout, and the Warriors were outscoring the Rockets 22-14 in the quarter. The Warriors then went on another run that saw Kevin Durant nail a wide-open three and Kevon Looney throw down a two-handed jam, all while holding the Rockets scoreless. The Rockets were struggling to match the intensity of the Warriors, and Gerald Green picked up his fourth foul, making him have nearly as many fould as the man he replaces (Trevor Ariza). The Warriors had an 11-point lead at the time of the time out. The Rockets then went on an 8-0 run after Steve Kerr took Kevin Durant out of the game. That 8-0 run then forced Kerr’s hand and he put Durant back in the game, and he nailed two free throws to help re-build their lead. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 31-24 in the third quarter, so it was not nearly the explosion that Warrior fans have become accustomed to. As a team, the Warriors shot the ball at a 54.7% clip from the floor and 37.5% (9/24) through three quarters, while the Rockets shot 47.5% from the field and 42.3% (11/26) from three. The leading scorer for the Warriors was Kevin Durant, who had 30 points on 13/24 shooting, and the Rockets were led by James Harden, who had 32 points on 11/17 shooting. After the third quarter, the Warriors led the Rockets 87-80.
Eric Gordon got the Rockets going in the fourth quarter with an open three. The Warriors then followed that up with a block on Nene from Draymond, and then a three from Klay Thompson. Klay was getting on a roll, as he hit another three in transition. The Warriors were rolling, and Kevin Durant was still hot, nailing a pull-up three in the face of James Harden. The Rockets couldn’t get anything going, and were taking bad shots for the first five minutes of the quarter. The Rockets called a timeout to stop the bleeding with 7:30 left in the game, and the Warriors had a 12-point lead. Following that timeout, the Warriors offense did stall a little bit, but they still had the advantage thanks to their strong third quarter which gave them the lead. James Harden was still cooking, and frankly, hurting my feelings. He nailed another incredibly tough three and a mid range jumper over Stephen Curry. The Warriors were letting Harden get his points though, and they were keeping pace thanks to strong defense from Draymond Green, a strip from Stephen Curry, and more wide-open threes from Klay Thompson. The Warriors ability to keep pace while the Rockets were rolling forced a timeout from Mike D’Antoni with four minutes left in the quarter and the Warriors holding onto a 106-96 lead after a Klay three. The Warriors took the last few minutes to wrap the game up as they were still getting fouled on every possession by the Rockets despite the 12-point lead. The Warriors had the game won after Draymond Green blocked a corner three. As a team, the Warriors finished the game shooting 53.5% from the floor and 39.4% (13/33) from three, while the Rockets finished shooting 45.9% from the field and 35.1% (13/37) from three. Kevin Durant was the Warriors’ leading scorer with 37 points on 14/27 shooting. James Harden was incredible, finishing with 41 points on 14/24 shooting with seven assists. In the end though, the Warriors won the game 119-106.
James Harden was incredible for the Rockets, and was the only reason that they were in the game as long as they were. He was hitting incredibly tough step-back threes that only he can make, and he even threw down a couple dunks that I didn’t think he was capable of. In the end though, the Warriors were fine with his outburst, as they just stopped his teammates. The Rockets’ next-highest scorer was Chris Paul, who had 23 points on 8/17 shooting with 11 rebounds. Eric Gordon did have 15 points, but missed an absurd amount of wide-open looks from three. Trevor Ariza had five fouls, eight points, and was 3/8 from the floor, and his replacement, Gerald Green, had six points on 2/5 shooting with four fouls. While the Iso-heavy offense of the Rockets wreaked havoc on the league for 82 games in the Regular season, it most certainly did not work against the reigning champions.
Kevin Durant was incredible for the Warriors from start to finish. He had 37 points, and was the stabilizing force in the offense. Klay Thompson also was incredible, dropping six threes en route to his 28 points. He also created a legendary GIF, which will live for the rest of time. Stephen Curry did not have a great game, in fact, I wouldn’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say he had a bad game. He had 18 points on 8/15 shooting, and that included him going 1/5 from beyond the arc, but he did do a great job of distributing and getting to the hoop. Iguodala had 11 points, Nick Young had some outstanding minutes off the bench and knocked down three threes for his nine points on the night. Draymond Green was all over the place, scoring five points, grabbing nine boards, dishing out nine assists, stealing two passes, and blocking two shots. Kevon Looney only had two points, but he played remarkable defense on Chris Paul and James Harden all night, and he definitely deserves some praise for that.
This game felt different than a normal win. The Warriors were favored to win the series, but the only game that they were underdogs in (#WeBelieve2) was Game 1. The Warriors demolished the Rockets, outlasted their ability to run an “offense” and it felt as if this game was a sign of things to come in the remaining three games.
This series might have just ended right before our eyes, only time will tell.
Game Two will take place on Wednesday, May 16, in Houston at 6 p.m. on TNT.