Fans may have been hoping for the beautiful game — Golden State’s dynamic ball movement, James Harden’s elite scoring.
What they got were two of the league’s best defensive teams who happen know each other well (this was their 12th meeting in a calendar year), and that meant a physical — and at times sloppy — game. The Rockets missed 33 threes, while the Warriors took only 22. The Warriors turned the ball over one in five times down the court (20 total), and 26 percent of their possessions in the first half. James Harden shot 9-of-28. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 10-of-25.
Those fans also got drama.
Kevin Durant had 35 points and was nearly unstoppable when the game was on the line. There was the obligatory frustration with officials over borderline calls (and what constitutes a landing spot). But when it mattered most Curry did this and iced the game.
Golden State took Game 1 104-100. Game 2 is back at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night.
“It’s just basketball at its highest level, along with competition at its highest level,” Kerr said after the game. “It’s intense out there, and both teams are just fighting for everything out there.”
Ultimately, the difference was Durant.
“Kevin’s run this past couple of weeks has been off the charts,” Steve Kerr said after the game. “I’ve said it a few times this week, he’s the most skilled basketball player on earth. He’s one of the most skilled players to ever…
“After we lost Game 2 to the Clippers he felt he had to turn it up and lift us up another level and that’s just what he did.
Kerr opened the game with his best lineup, starting Andre Iguodala and the “Hamptons five” — Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Durant, and Iguodala. That lineup had a +5.8 net rating, played nearly 25 minutes, and was +4 in a four-point win.
Harden struggled as the Warriors threw different defenders and different looks at him all night, but he still had 35 points (he got to the free throw line 14 times was the main reason).
The Warriors strategy to deal with Harden’s deadly step-back three was to crowd him — which left Harden looking for foul calls he did not get. The Rockets’ complaint was the Warriors’ defenders were taking away Harden’s landing spot, including on a shot to tie it in the final seconds of the game. Harden referenced the Kawhi Leonard injury from a couple of years ago where a series changed when Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia‘s foot in Game 1.
Chris Paul grabbed the rebound after Harden’s final miss, tried to draw a foul on Thompson he didn’t get, then got ejected with his second technical when he yelled at the referee for not giving him the call. CP3 will be writing a check to the league for this.
“[The referees] came to me at halftime and said they missed it, missed four of them,” D’Antoni said after the game.
D’Antoni was also questioned for having Nene in with the game on the line. On the previous two possessions Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala had grabbed offensive rebounds off misses, and D’Antoni didn’t want that to happen again. However, Nene being in gave Curry a target to exploit, and he did with the dagger to seal the win.
“He was playing great, he was guarding great,” D’Antoni said of Nene up to that point. “Rebounding could have been an issue. Now, looking back, I probably wouldn’t have done that knowing what happened.”
Eric Gordon had 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting for the Rockets.
All five Warriors starters had at least 13 points as they ended up with a more balanced attack.