By Annie Ross
Don’t look now, but the NBA’s West finals has tuned into a real series.
The Houston Rockets blasted the Golden State Warriors for the first 24 minutes and went into halftime with a 14-point deficit, winning 127-105 to go back to California with a 1-1 series tie.
The Rockets, who played with a far more diverse offensive attack than they had in Game 1, took over by speeding things up and spreading them out, with James Harden and Eric Gordon leading the way with 27 points each and three other Rockets players scoring in double-figures.
At his postgame news conference, Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni said too much would most likely be made of a change in Houston’s attack. He saw it more as improvement of execution rather than an alteration of gameplan.
“I don’t want to be cantankerous,” he said. “You have one of the best offenses of all time, at least, with Golden State and we’re trying to prove we’re up there with them. You’re not going to come in and change the way you play.”
He added: “We are who we are. We just did it better and longer.”
“There’s a balance you have to find,” Dubs coach Steve Kerr said. “You’ve got to be loose but you’ve got to be disciplined. We should come out and let it rip but do that in the context of taking care of the ball and defending with purpose.”
Instead, the Warriors opened with a brutal first quarter and continued to be sloppy all game, committing 15 turnovers — several of which came on passes that not only missed their mark but were simply thrown into the crowd at Houston’s Toyota Center. And unlike the nights when the team’s sloppiness can be made up for through pure marksmanship, the Warriors shot just 9 for 30 from 3-point range, barely having any effect on offense beyond Kevin Durant’s 38 points.
Complicating matters was a poor performance from Stephen Curry, who still does not appear to be 100 percent after a strained ligament in his knee forced him out from March 9 until Game 2 of Golden State’s Western semifinal series against New Orleans. Curry came into the game averaging 23.2 points a game in this postseason, but he was remarkably tentative on offense all game, and was ice-cold from the perimeter — going 1 for 8 from 3-point range, just barely extending his record of 81 consecutive playoff games with a 3-pointer. He finished the game with 16 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds.
It was not just Curry who failed to make a dent offensively. Klay Thompson had 8 points after attempting just 11 shots, Draymond Green scored just 6 points and Andre Iguodala had 5.
There were no such problems for Houston. The Rockets had plodded their way through isolation plays in Game 1, but they opened things up to players other than Harden and thrived as a team. P.J. Tucker, who had just 1 point in Game 1, scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, Gordon had more than a few morale-crushing baskets, Trevor Ariza scored 19 and Chris Paul contributed 16 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds despite being in foul trouble (he finished the game with five fouls).
The series will now shift to Oakland for Game 3 on Sunday.