The MVP and his runner-up didn’t disappoint in the first game of the series as they both showcased precisely why they finished first and second in the voting. But, on this night the loss of Houston Rockets other All-Star may be what ends up becoming more of a story line as the series progresses. The sad part is it was an inadvertent and seemingly innocent play that led to Dwight Howard sustaining his knee injury when Josh Smith fell into him.
If Howard can’t go in Game 2, the Houston Rockets will need rookie Clint Capela to step into some rather large shoes especially on the defensive end.
James Harden: 28 Points, 11 Rebounds, 9 Assist, 4 Steals
Trevor Ariza: 20 Points, 3 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals and was spectacular from deep hitting 4 of 5.
Stephen Curry: 34 Points, 6 Rebounds, 5 Assists and 2 Steals
Draymond Green: 13 Points, 12 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 2 Steals and a Block
Warriors: Shaun Livingston I remember thinking when Golden State picked up Livingston how it made them so much longer on the court and gave them a great option coming off the bench with a very different style to Curry. In fairness without Beverley the Warriors back court already has a huge advantage, but on this night Livingston provided the x-factor intangible for Golden State scoring 18 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and added 3 assists, a steal and was a team high plus +16.
Rockets: Clint Capela While I could have selected Josh Smith with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks or Pablo Prigioni with a steady hand and 4 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists and team high plus +10, I felt their lapses on defense were part of the Rockets issue in the loss. So it is the rookie who I don the credit as the x-factor in Game 1 for posting 9 points hitting all 4 of his field goal attempts and also registered one each of an assist, steal and block all in just 13 minutes playing time.
Terrence Jones: Repeatedly during this game I found myself screaming at the television over the missed put backs or gimmes Jones made. While he’s had some amazing games this post season Game 1 was undoubtedly his worst effort of the post season. He shot 2 for 10 which is terrible, but it’s the types of shots he missed. I couldn’t help but think if Jones hits close to his season average of 52.8% the Rockets win this game! Moving forward especially if Howard can’t go in Game 2 (or for that matter longer) Houston will need a much better effort from Jones
Examining the box score there wasn’t much that separated the two teams as they posted a .2% difference in field goals percent and most categories were separated by a single digit other than Houston collecting 4 additional rebounds, 3 additional blocks and Golden State committing 2 fewer turnovers. But, at the end of the night the four additional points was the difference.
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As I noted in my series preview I felt this game could be one the Rockets could steal as they were coming off a slow paced series versus Memphis and when the Rockets posted a 16 point lead in the first half I thought I might be proven correct.
But then Kerr went with a small line-up with fire cracker (and the heart of the Warriors team) Draymond Green at center and they went on a 21-4 run to end the half and take over the lead.
I have a feeling I’ll continue to reiterate this over and over again, but unless the Rockets can figure out how to stop the Warriors in transition this series will be over quickly.
The crazy part about saying Golden State is going small is back-up point guard Livingston is the same height as Green at 6’7″ so they still bring a ton of length and speed to the court with their small line-up.
The Warriors did pull ahead late in the fourth quarter by 11 points, but Harden and Ariza pulled them close enough to almost steal Game 1.
It has to be said at the post game interviews the reigning MVP was definitely upstaged by his adorable daughter Riley:
- After several games where James Harden didn’t seem to be a factor in the Clippers series it was good to see him come out aggressive and make a difference. Sure he’s put up good stats, but if we’re honest he wasn’t a factor in many of those wins.
- In the regular season the Warriors owned the Rockets and had an even better point differential against them then their league leading differential. So, it was encouraging to see them contend throughout Game 1 and even threaten to steal the first game and home court. Regardless of the loss it has to be viewed positively by the team to know they can compete in the series.
- With apologies to James Harden the best player on the court for me was Trevor Ariza who played great on both ends of the court. He was put on various Warriors and did an excellent job on the perimeter. If Howard can’t go in Game 2 or for any time in the series the Rockets will need him to continue to an offensive and defensive presence and hope one of Josh Smith or Terrence Jones can become the second or third scoring option.
- It has to be said that rookie Clint Capela has played with poise beyond his years and his experience for that matter. He might find himself under the gun come Game 2 if Howard can’t go, but for now let’s remember he had a total of ninety minutes of court time prior to the playoffs. In fact he’s played more in the post season registering 104 minutes to date.
- As noted above the play of Terrence Jones was surprisingly bad.
- Transition defense. For the Rockets to have any hope of winning this series they need to figure this out… quickly
- Defensive coverage of Stephen Curry: far too often Curry was left wide open, it’s shocking the score wasn’t even higher for Golden State given how often he was left wide open.
- Dwight Howard getting hit inadvertently by Josh Smith was unfortunate, but losing him for any length of time would surely put the Rockets backs against the wall early in this series.
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