I was a little antsy as I sat on my couch last night with a gray cat in my lap, waiting for Game 1 to tip off already after four long days of no basketball. My Warriors were set to face the Houston Rockets, owner of the league’s best record at 65–17, and one and a half–point favorites according to the oddsmakers.
The first couple minutes did not go well. A defensive lapse left James Harden all alone for a three, which he buried. Big Clint Capela rejected Kevin Durant’s first shot attempt with authority, then slammed home an alley-cop dunk on the other end. Draymond Green got a technical 1:07 into the game for shoving Harden under the basket, and was lucky he did not get booted summarily from the game. Andre Iguodala picked up two quick fouls and headed to the bench.
But despite all that the Warriors never trailed by more than 9, and had closed it to one at the end of the 1st quarter. The game was tied at 56 at halftime.
And the Warriors, as we all know, are a third-quarter team. Sometimes they strike like a cobra, going on a big run that quickly puts an end to things. This time they were more like a boa constrictor, slowly squeezing the life out of the Rockets. Kevin Durant was the man, seemingly scoring at will, and Klay Thompson chipped in with a basket every time he got even a glimmer of daylight. Steph Curry struggled a bit, missing most of his shots and being repeatedly exploited on defense by the bigger Harden.
But if there’s one play that exemplifies the W’s performance in this game, it was Steph poking away Harden’s dribble, chasing down the loose ball, and feeding Iguodala for a dunk. You could feel the air go out of the building a little (remember, this game was in Houston), and the game was never really in doubt after that.
So the $64 million question is, did the Rockets have an off night and/or first-game jitters, or is this just how it’s gonna be? All the commentators seemed eager to declare the series over, which is of course premature. I for one hold out some hope that the Rockets will pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and give my team a real challenge.
It must be demoralizing, though. The Rockets worked hard all year with the specific goal of getting home-court advantage in this series. They got it, and then the Warriors came and snatched it away just like that. I almost feel bad for them.
But not quite. The Rockets are led by two of my least favorite players in the NBA today, James Harden and Chris Paul. Both of these guys are incredibly talented, and both are adept at taking advantage of every loophole the game offers them, legal or otherwise. Throughout their careers they have repeatedly put up gaudy regular-season numbers, then come up small when it counted. So no pity party; if the Rockets want Game 2, they are going to have to take it. Come on, boys, let’s see what you got.