Posted on January 21, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The big question the last couple of years in the NBA has been whether anyone could take down the Golden State Warriors in a best of seven series. Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers did a couple of years ago when Steph Curry was a little hobbled. But with Kevin Durant on the roster as well, the likelihood of anyone pulling it off is slim.
Just don’t tell the Houston Rockets that.
Houston entered Saturday night’s contest with the Warriors confident they could slay the beast—and they did. They exploded for 40-points in the opening quarter and took a 40-28 lead after the first. Golden State’s defense stepped up in the second, but the Warriors were only able to close the gap down to seven-points, 65-58, heading into halftime.
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It was looking good for the Rockets, but the Warriors are one of those ‘never say die’ teams that refuse to give up as long as time remains on the clock. Sure enough, Nick Young’s three-pointer towards the end of the third quarter pulled the Warriors within one, 92-91. A couple of minutes into the fourth Young gave Golden State the lead, 96-94.
Golden State got out to a four-point lead after Kevin Durant hit a 20-footer with 6:47 to play. But then the Rockets regained control of the game with a 9-2 run. Houston would go on to win 116-108 and hand the Warriors their first road loss since November 22.
“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said (ESPN). “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”
In all fairness, the Warriors didn’t have a bad night. More often then not, shooting 48.8 percent from the floor (40-82) and 47.2 percent from three-point range (17-36) is enough to ensure a victory. It’s not like Houston had a better night from the floor (47.1 percent; 37.8 percent from three-point range).
The difference maker was the free throw line. Golden State made 11 of their 15 attempts while Houston made 20 of 29.
Chris Paul led the way for Houston with 33 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists followed by James Harden with 22. Clint Capella chipped in 18. Kevin Duran led the way for Golden State with 26 points followed by Draymond Green with 21.
The Rockets will try to make it three in a row when they play the Miami Heat Monday night. The Warriors will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard when they face the New York Knicks Tuesday night.
It is easy to say the difference between this year’s Rockets and last year is the addition of Chris Paul, but Kevin Durant doesn’t see it that way (ESPN): “I think the difference between them this year and last year — obviously everybody is going to say CP (Paul) — but they’re just playing harder. They’re playing harder on the defensive side of the ball.”
If that is indeed the case, then the Warriors may need to be a little more concerned about the Rockets then they are letting on. When asked if the game mattered, Durant was quick to give his response (ESPN):
“No. “The season starts over when you’re in the playoffs anyway, so it doesn’t matter. You’re going to have to get through these teams to get to where you want to go. You have to play at home and on the road, so it really doesn’t matter. We just want to be playing good basketball when it comes down to that point.”
But the Rockets may think differently. But beating a team two of three regular season game is different than beating them in a seven-game series. However, it appears as if Saturday’s win has given some of the Rockets a tool that could help them take down the Warriors come playoff time—confidence.
Clint Capela made his thoughts clear when he said (ESPN): “We are better than them.”