Well, you know what they say – a series hasn’t truly begun until the home team beats the hell out of the best team.
In other words, with Houston’s merciless 127-105 pummeling of Golden State in Wednesday’s second game of the Western Conference Finals, we now have the germ of the series that was advertised back around Christmas – the two best teams bringing the best out of each other, and in doing so bringing out the worst in each other as well.
In Game 1, the Warriors showed the nation a Houston team that one could easily be disgusted by, so the Rockets did the same thing to Golden State in Game 2, becoming the intrepid, adventurous, arrogant (in the competitive way) and fearless team they clearly were not two nights earlier. The Warriors were slower, more hesitant, and eventually more frustrated and chippy, descending into losing hockey team territory near the end with cheap fouls by first Draymond Green and then Kevin Durant.
Conversely, just as James Harden’s 41 points in Game 1 turned out to be so many empty calories, so too was Durant’s 38 in Game 2. Teams that boast that they are brilliantly constructed ensemble pieces shouldn’t fall so easily into one-man point-collectors.
Houston’s offense broke quickly and smoothly, giving up the static isolation-heavy ball of Game 1 and assembling a more aggressive and fluid show. Golden State’s offense, on the other hand, just broke. They shot poorly, they never created a rhythm, never made a worrisome run and took the beating they so richly deserved. The final margin of 26 points represented the ninth time in their last 10 playoff losses that they have lost by double digits, and the average in those 10 games is an absurd 19.4 points.
But if helps, they went on to win five of the previous eight games that followed those routs, so they should not be fazed by being embarrassed so thoroughly.
Most important for those of you who came for a long and tense series, you can at least say you have seen each team at its best and at its worst, thus leaving Games 3 through 7 (if the deities are on their jobs) to find their own balance – one that better represents the idealized versions of both the Rockets and Warriors we convinced ourselves we would get when this series began.
|Game 1||Warriors 119, Rockets 106|
|Game 2||Rockets 127, Warriors 105|
|Game 3||Oakland -- Sunday, May 20th at 5pm|
|Game 4||Oakland -- Tuesday, May 22nd at 6pm|
|Game 5||Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm|
|Game 6||Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm|
|Game 7||Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm|