The Golden State Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals on Friday after beating the Houston Rockets 99-98. James Harden had a chance to win the game and steal one on the road for the Rockets, but he failed to get a shot off as he was swarmed by Thompson and Curry in the dying seconds of the game.
After taking game 1 two days earlier, the Warriors came out like a team with a mission and took an early 17-point lead in the second quarter. The Rockets could not stop the Golden State offense, which was firing on all cylinders. In the first two quarters the Warriors made 23 field goals, of which an incredible 21 were assisted. Turnovers held Houston in the game, however — the Rockets scored 16 points off 11 Warriors turnovers in the first half, sparking a 23-6 run to close out the half to tie the game 52-52.
The second half was a battle between MVP Curry and runner-up Harden, who both showed they are the top two players in the League right now. Curry finished the game with 33 points (5-of-11 from behind the arc) and 6 assists. Harden has been doing it all for the Rockets. After going for 28 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists in game 1, Harden posted another near triple-double with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
Klay Thompson had a sub-par game on the offensive end of the floor for the second straight game, finishing with only 13 points. Thompson is shooting 2-for-14 from three this series, unable to find any rhythm. He is spending most of his energy guarding Harden at the other end of the floor, and has been relatively successful in forcing Harden into tough shots, which Harden has been able to make so far in this series.
For the Rockets, Dwight Howard has been looking good. In game 2 he had 19 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, dominating the battle down low against Andrew Bogut. Houston will look to stay big during most of the game to take advantage of Howard’s power and agility.
Since halfway through the series against the Clippers, Josh Smith has been used as a starter in McHale’s rotation. Smith has not been producing what the Rockets are looking for in this series, however. He is jacking up too many shots. Smith averages 16.5 FGA per game (only 4 less than Harden), but he hasn’t been able to convert them, shooting 33.3% from the field, including 2-for-9 from downtown. The Rockets would like to see him break out of his slump in game 3, but Draymond Green has been showing why he is the real defensive player of the year – his defense on Smith has been outstanding so far.
The main issue for the Rockets has been their defense. The fact that they had a chance to win in both games is positive, because their defense has been mediocre so far and has lacked concentration and effort at times. The Warriors average 24 fast break points in the series. The Rockets will need to get back on defense better if they want to have a chance of tying the series at home in the next two games. Game 3 with be played on Sunday, 11AM AEST.