The Houston Roundball Review is an online basketball publication by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets jumped to a 6-0 lead. Then, the Rockets led 9-2 and eventually 12-4. At the end of the first quarter, the Rockets had a one point lead (30-29) over the Golden State Warriors. After a thrilling first half, with a 56-56 score at halftime, the Warriors outscored by 13 points in the second half and defeated the Rockets 119-106 in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals.
With the win tonight, Golden State takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series vs. Houston. It is the first time the Rockets have trailed in a series this postseason. Dating back to the 2015 playoffs, the Warriors improve to 14-1 in the opening game of a series.
All three of the Rockets losses this postseason have come when allowing 110 or more points. During the regular season, nine of Houston’s 17 losses came when the opposition scored 110 or more. Including the regular season, Golden State is 56-3 when scoring 110 or more points, with one of the losses coming to the Rockets on opening night.
James Harden scored a game-high 41 points and Chris Paul scored 23 points; however, the Rockets' starters were outscored by the Warriors' starting unit 99-85. Kevin Durant scored 37 points. Klay Thompson scored 28; Steph Curry scored 18 and Andre Iguodala chipped in 11 points. Draymond Green scored five points and added 9 assists and 9 rebounds.
Houston's Trevor Ariza battled foul trouble most of the game. Ariza was whistled for 5 fouls and was limited to 23 minutes and 21 seconds of action.
P.J. Tucker scored just one point in the game. Tucker attempted only field goals in his 34 minutes and 30 seconds of action.
"Well, they're really good." said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "You're not going to come in and just knock them out. I mean, there's too many times we had just mental lapses. We either didn't switch properly or we didn't switch hard enough. We turned the ball over a little bit too much. Every time we missed a layup, which we missed a lot of layups, they ran out. They're really devastating. We've got to make layups, don't turn it over and do a little bit better job of mentally just staying up on people."
The Rockets missed 11 layups in the game and committed 16 turnovers. Golden State scored 17 points off the turnovers. The 16 turnovers are the most the Rockets had in a game this postseason (9.7 turnovers per game prior). Houston averaged just 13.0 turnovers per game against Golden State during the regular season while the Warriors averaged 16.3. Including the regular season, the Warriors are 10-0 when having 10 or fewer turnovers (3-0 in playoffs).
The Warriors outscored the Rockets 18-3 in fast break points.
"That's what they're good at," D'Antoni continued. "They're obviously champions for a reason. If we want to beat them, we have to be mentally sharper. KD's, he's tough. I mean, obviously, he was on tonight. Hey, you can live with that. But you can't live with that and then make mental mistakes, and that's what we do. The combination of the two was devastating. We'll get that better. We'll make some adjustments on little things that we can do better. To knock these guys out, we've got to play a lot better offensively also."
Harden's 41 points Monday night, is his third 40-point game this postseason and the seventh of his playoff career, all coming as a Rocket. The only time a Rocket scored 40 or more points at least three times in a single postseason was Hakeem Olajuwon with five during the 1995 playoffs. Harden shot 5-of-9 from 3-point range tonight and is shooting 14-of-27 from behind-the-arc in three games played against the Warriors in 2017-18 (regular season and playoffs).
The Rockets fall to 27-4 when Chris Paul scores 20 or more points, including 4-2 this postseason. Paul averaged 21.7 ppg in the three regular season games against the Warriors. He also had 11 rebounds tonight. Paul has grabbed 10 or more boards twice this postseason (12 at Utah on May 6, 2018) after doing so twice prior in his playoff career. He averaged 8.7 rebounds per game vs. Golden State during the regular season.
Kevin Durant had 37 points tonight. He has scored 30 or more points four times this postseason and 52 times in his playoff career. That is the second-highest total of any player since he entered the league in 2007-08 (LeBron James with 90). Kobe Bryant had 51 30-point playoff games over that span.
Golden State outshot Houston 52.5% to 45.9%. The Warriors have won 22 straight playoff games when shooting 50.0% or better from the floor with the last loss coming in double-overtime to San Antonio on 5/6/13. The Rockets fall to 2-3 when their opponent shoots 50.0% or better this postseason (8-8 in regular season).
Game 2 is Wednesday, May 16, in Houston, at 8 p.m.