James Harden battles through eye injury, Warriors win Game 2 with awesome defense


James Harden squinted and scratched his head as he walked off the court.

How did that just happen?

The Rockets shot way better than the Warriors from beyond the arc. Houston went on a 7-1 run with the shot clock off in the fourth quarter. The Rockets even drew more fouls and attempted more free throws than Golden State in a game Scott Foster refereed.

Yet, the Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the second-round series with a 115-109 Game 2 win Tuesday. Teams that won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 94% of the time.

Houston will have plenty of time to regroup before Game 3 Saturday. Nobody could use it more than Harden.

Draymond Green swiped Harden in the eyes in the first quarter, and Harden left the game for a while. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden was bleeding from his eyes. Harden (29 points) returned, but he was playing throughout bloodshot and watery eyes that were still clearly bothering him after the game.

Still, Golden State’s inspired defense deserves credit. All five starters – especially Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant – were swarming.

The Warriors also crashed the offensive glass hard, particularly players coming from the weakside.

That’s why Golden State won despite shooting just 31% on 3-pointers to Houston’s 43%.

Curry also missed time in the first half with a finger injury. Though he shot just 3-of-13 on 3-pointers, including 2-for-7 while playing with the Warriors’ other starters, Curry proved helpful with his gravity. Golden State’s starting lineup posted a 143 offensive rating. The connection between Green (15 points and seven assists) and Iguodala (16 points and four assists) proved particularly fruitful as Curry drew attention.

Durant (29 points) cooked. Thompson (21 points) got hot.

The Rockets just couldn’t match that offensive output during the game’s competitive time. The Warriors got up big early and never trailed, even though Houston – sparked by Austin Rivers (14 points, +11) – cut into the margin with Harden out in the first half.

A wonky final couple minutes, featuring odd turnovers and fouls, made the final scpre misleadingly close.

Thankfully, in a game with the leadup focused on refereeing, both teams mostly focused on just playing basketball. There were a few noteworthy moments related to officials. Golden State griped a little in the third quarter. Harden drew a three-shot foul on a Durant closeout, and Chris Paul laid it on thick by pumping his fist while helping up Harden. Green and Nene got a double technical foul – which could rescinded, but is for now Green’s fourth technical foul of the playoffs (toward a limit of six before suspension). Green’s swipe of Harden’s eyes went un-whistled.

But this was mostly the clean, competitive game everyone wanted – just one controlled by the Warriors from start to finish.