GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (67-26) at HOUSTON ROCKETS (73-20)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -1.5, Total: 224.5
Having dropped Game 1 at home, Game 2 suddenly feels like a must-win for Houston.For much of Monday night's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the tilt between Houston and Golden State was exactly what we'd hoped for: The Rockets giving the Warriors a serious run for their money. But an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter helped the Dubs open up a 13-point advantage, and they more or less cruised from there to a 119-106 win in a game in which Houston was favored by 1.5 points. That appears to be around where the line will settle for Game 2 on Wednesday, and the Rockets will need to deliver on their status as favorites, lest they head to Oakland down two games to zero against arguably the greatest basketball team of all time. Over the last five seasons, favorites attempting to revenge a loss of 10 or more points (HOU) are 117-69 ATS against an opponent coming off a road win. On the other hand, since 1996, home teams allowing at least 103 PPG on the season (HOU) are 65-115 against spreads between +3 and -3 when playing an opponent that has scored at least 55 first-half points in two straight games. In the last five years, games involving a team that allowed at least 115 points in its last game (HOU) and a team that has scored at least 110 points in three straight games (GSW) are 97-54 Over against the total.
The Warriors used to be fun, and then they added SF Kevin Durant. KD destroyed the Rockets with buckets in Game One, scoring 37 points (14-27 FG) and only handing out one assist. He's arguably the best all-around pure scorer in the NBA, and his mastery of one-on-one situations bails the Warriors out in the rare instances when their ball movement isn't on point. But Durant wasn't the only Golden State player shooting well on Monday, as SG Klay Thompson (28 points, 9-18 FG) and PG Steph Curry (18 points, 8-15 FG) each also shot at least 50% from the floor. In a way, that's reason for optimism for Houston: Maybe they have a chance if just one of these guys goes cold? Curry also notched eight assists, but picked up five fouls thanks to the wily ways of Rockets PG James Harden. As always, PF Draymond Green was the catalyst for the Warriors' offense, holding his own at the starting five spot at 6-foot-7. Despite scoring only five points, he was a game-best plus-19 on the floor thanks to nine assists, nine rebounds and stellar defense (two steals and two blocks). SF Andre Iguodala rounded out the Hamptons Five starting lineup with 11 points of his own. Lanky SF Kevon Looney led the Warriors in bench minutes with 25, and was pretty quiet with only two points. SG Nick Young hit 3-of-5 three-pointers in 15 minutes to finish with nine.
It's about that time of year when critics expect Harden to shrink from the spotlight, but if that day is coming this season, we're at least not there yet. Harden was dynamite on Monday, hitting 14 of 24 shots (and five of nine threes) to lead all scorers with 41 points. He got to the line for 10 free throws, accounting for most of Curry's fouls. Steph will probably make a concerted effort to lay off of him going forward, but that just gives Harden more room to work. But the rest of the Rockets have some stepping up to do. PG Chris Paul looks decent in the box score, having racked up 23 points (8-17 FG) and 11 rebounds. But he also displayed the petty attitude that has preceded his playoffs exits so many times before, and didn't exactly look like a guy who has made it this far before. (He hasn't.) He'll also need more than three assists for the Rockets to win. Of course, that necessitates his non-Harden teammates hitting jumpers, something that didn't happen enough in Game 1. While Fs P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are primarily valued for their contributions on defense, the 0-for-9 combined shooting they put forth on Monday will simply not cut it. SF Trevor Ariza (eight points, 3-8 FG) and SG Eric Gordon (15 points, 6-13 FG), while not dismal, each scored under their regular season averages. C Clint Capela, who has been an outright beast up until this point in the postseason, needs to take advantage of the enormous size advantage he has over Green in the post. The Warriors succeeded in neutralizing his areas of strength, and it's up to Mike D'Antoni, Capela and the rest of the Rockets to make sure Capela is in favorable situations.