Rockets 127, Warriors 105 - Return to Form

By Forrest Walker on May 16, 2018

The Houston Rockets have evened up the series with the Golden State Warriors, 1-1. In a dominant performance from start to finish, the Rockets responded to the pressure and looked like the Houston team we've seen for six months. The ramshackle assortment of spare parts being dragged by James Harden transformed overnight into a sharp, hungry squad, while the Golden State Warriors melted into Kevin Durant and friends. In this game Houston finds not just a necessary respite from the onslaught of the Warriors, but a reason for hope and a blueprint for future success.

The Rockets didn't change their offense. They didn't even really change their defense. They just trimmed the fat and rounded into shape, looking sharper, more communicative and faster in all aspects. In game 1 the Rockets scored a mere 3 fast break points. Tonight they had 12. Instead of 1 point, PJ Tucker scored 22, his career playoff high. Eric Gordon flipped the switch from being an offensive drain to draining threes, good for 27 points including 6-9 from deep. The mean was not merely regressed to, it was shot past.

Of course, there are reasons for concern. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute missed some easy layups early and quickly got relegated to garbage time. His shoulder seems to be bothering him, and if he's a zero on offense he isn't really playable. Tucker and Ariza filled in those minutes nicely, and the long rest between games should help with fatigue, but this may become a serious issue if the series goes long. Chris Paul was better than his numbers would imply (16 points, 6 assists, 3 steals), but was not walking well at the end of the game. This may be a problem, or merely normal nicks and dings, and only time will tell.

The biggest worry, of course, is that this may have just been a bad night from the Warriors. They shot a mere 9-30 from three point range, and Steph Curry continued to look off. He was a mere 1-8 from deep and was overall deferential in the offense. It's very possible and in fact likely that the Warriors will spring back on their home floor, something the Rockets should be extremely ready for.

Kevin Durant, of course, remained a beast. He scored 38 on 22 shots, and overall looked unstoppable. Their best offense through two games has been to just give Durant the ball and let him go, which could be a major x-factor as the series progresses. While KD is a generational talent and an offense by himself, letting him go off while the rest of the team watches is exactly the kind of game plan that got the Rockets cooked in game one. The Warriors' greatest strength is, as their slogan states, in numbers.

As suddenly as the series seemed on the brink of ending early, the Rockets suddenly seem to have a new energy and a new intensity. If the Rockets can continue to get quality play from the entire rotation, short as it now is, the Warriors actually have a problem to solve. The ball is in Golden State's court in every way, and it falls to them to figure out how to run an offense which isn't entirely composed of Kevin Durant. Now the Rockets just need to stay in midseason form for five more games.

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