© Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The last thing I wrote on Monday night was, “The series is not over. The Rockets will play better.”
When a team wins 65 games it’s not a mirage. Houston bounced back in Game 2 like an elite team should. Just like there was too much of an over-reaction to the Game 1 results, many erroneous conclusions will be drawn over the Rockets rolling in Game 2.
THE reason Houston won Game 2 is that PJ Tucker and Trevor Ariza were insanely productive and incredibly efficient. The pair went 15-of-18 from the field, 6-of-9 on 3’s and combined for 41 points. That’s going to be a Houston win every time.
And they probably won’t do it again in the series.
The Rockets made seven more 3s in the game, which really was the margin of victory. In Game 1, both teams made 13 3-point shots. To beat the Warriors, the Rockets need to have a great 3-point shooting night…and they did. Can they do that three more times in the next five games?
It will get lost but the Warriors did a very good job on James Harden and Chris Paul in Game 2. The two main stars were 15-of-38 and 4-of-20 on 3-pointers. The Warriors would take that every game the rest of the series.
Conversely, Kevin Durant is going crazy on the scoring end (38 points in Game 2) all the while shooting incredibly well. But he’s also taken 49 shots in two games to go with only one assist. KD has to use his incredible skill to get others easy shots and get other Warriors involved. When he is rolling singularly the Warriors start to stand around and watch him and that is not the Warriors at their best. Also, after going 14-of-27 and 13-of-22, what will happen if Durant has an off-shooting night in the series?
The scheduling will benefit the Warriors as they need the days off until Sunday. They get to rest, evaluate, get Curry more rehab time and know they gained the required split in the two road games. They have not lost a home playoff game since Durant joined the team. Games 3 and 4 coming Sunday and Tuesday work out perfectly.
The one strategy adjustment that the Warriors will have to evaluate is the fact that the Rockets continue to get Steph Curry switched on to James Harden or Chris Paul which continues to be a problem. Curry begins possessions guarding Trevor Ariza, so Houston uses Ariza to set the on-ball screen for Harden or Paul. The Warriors need to stay with either Rocket star and basically leave Ariza alone and dare Houston to pass him the ball. Then Steph can recover to Ariza. Just randomly switching every time is giving Houston the mismatch they want far too many times.
Bottom line is the Warriors got the split they needed. Houston responded like the elite team they have become. The series will be decided with the next two home games at Oracle. Can the Warriors hold serve and take them both or does Houston grab one and set this series up for the maximum 7 games?
Time will tell.