The regular season may have ended with the Golden State Warriors dropping 10 of their final 17 games, essentially ceding the #1 seed to the Houston Rockets in the process, but that clearly meant very little to them in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday night. The Warriors, traveling to Houston, came out and won in a quite decisive fashion by a score of 119-106 against a team that made a ton of noise in the regular season but still clearly has a lot of work to do to get back into this series.
Many questioned the will of the Warriors to get to a fourth consecutive Finals this season. But it’s been made abundantly clear to all of us now that Golden State have simply turned it on in the playoffs, and this game proved just that. A couple of the reasons why they are in this lofty position after Game 1 include the fact that Kevin Durant was brilliant, scoring 37 points, and the fact that they outscored the Rockets 22-14 over the course of seven minutes in the third quarter to create some separation.
The whole root of the problem for Houston is their style of basketball, which is very much isolation-oriented. James Harden scored an incredible 41 points, the type of performance you expect from him, but it wasn’t nearly enough for them to get the victory. That’s because the ball isn’t moving nearly as much- like the Warriors traditionally like to do- and it means that they are not getting the best looks. It also slows the game down, and it puts more pressure on the Rockets, which can lead to trouble if you are behind and needing to make up points.
Many experts and fans alike believe that a series in the NBA isn’t one until both teams have won a game. So, the first thing that the Rockets are going to have to do is rebound from this loss, figure out how and what they did went wrong, and try to get a win in Houston in Game 2. Without a win in that game, this looks like it could be curtains for them as the Warriors could just go back home and dust them off with two victories to send them to the NBA Finals.