Warriors-Rockets is looking like a wrap, and in less than seven games

Warriors-Rockets is looking like a wrap, and in less than seven games

OAKLAND -- They won Game 1 when they had tender ankles and 20 turnovers. They won Game 2 when they were outshot. The Warriors gave Houston two chances, two different ways, to dig out a win in Oakland, and neither happened.

If the Rockets can’t beat the Warriors when the champs couldn’t locate their “A” game, with Stephen Curry shooting 6-of-23 from deep, good luck winning four games in five chances.

Despite most voices on both sides properly downplaying the significance of the Warriors taking a 2-0 series lead with a tip-to-horn 115-109 victory Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, this Western Conference second-round series is over. Done. The only salient question is how many games will be needed.

Not seven. Probably six. Maybe five.

“Game 3 is a must-win,” said Houston guard Austin Rivers, a lone voice willing to stare into the harsh and blinding reality. “There is no other way to look at it.”

Actually, Game 3 is a must-win only to avoid the possibility of being swept. And, yes, if the Rockets can’t win at home on Saturday, a sweep would feel nothing less than inevitable.

Not that anyone of sound mind would mutter such an outrageous statement.

“When you have home court, if you can get the first two, it puts you in good shape, with the awareness that you're just getting started,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Nothing has happened yet. We’ve got to go down to Houston and be ready to play because we know how good they are, we know how hard they're going to play.”

Understand, the Rockets played hard in Games 1 and 2. They were right there, in both games, inside the final minute. They lost their composure in Game 1, and the Warriors let them. The team that leads the NBA in 3-point shots rained triples, 17-of-40, in Game 2 and it was not enough to overcome a Warriors team unable to find its scoring touch until the fourth quarter.

The Warriors were too much even though Curry, as in Game 1, again spent the fourth quarter trying to avoid his sixth foul -- while also nursing a dislocated finger sustained in the first quarter. They were too much on a night when their most efficient scorers were, of all people, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green.

Game 2 was perhaps the biggest test the Warriors will face insofar as their recent history has been a tale of inconsistency, most pointedly in regard to their defensive effort. They gave away games in the regular season, did it again in the first round of the playoffs against the Clippers.

Would they rediscover the ruthlessness that makes them so lethal?

Defensively, yes, and again from the start. After holding the Rockets to 19 first-quarter points in Game 1, the Warriors limited them to 20, on 36.4-percent shooting in Game 2.

“That's a ballclub that if they get going, they can become impossible to stop,” Green said. “To start the game with that type of defensive intensity the way we did these last two games is key in being up 2-0 in the series.”

The Warriors, as a team, have turned in superb back-to-back defensive efforts. If they can take that to Houston, they’re likely to win at least one of the two games.

“They did what they're supposed to do: they won their two home games,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Now, if we're good enough, we'll win our two home games and come back here for Game 5.”

Don’t let D’Antoni trick you with that “if we’re good enough” line. The Rockets are good enough to beat most any team in the postseason. They are still trying to find a way to take down the Warriors, who have posted a 12-5 record against Houston over their last three playoff series.

Make that 14-5, with the distinct possibility of improvement.

“Our defense has been really good,” Iguodala said. “We’re still not perfect on defense. We’ve been good, though, considering how crafty they are. They made a lot of 3s and we still were able to control the game.

“The thing that I feel good about is that against this team, we won’t get comfortable. They’re confident and believe they’re going to go home and beat us twice.

“But there are more levels of us to reach. For sure. For sure.”

[RELATED: Warriors offer thoughts on refs after Game 2 win over Rockets]

The Rockets have seen Kevin Durant’s scoring greatness, but they haven’t seen Klay Thompson go on one of his notable rampages or Curry light up the scoreboard.

And, still, the Warriors are halfway to winning the series. Assuming good health, they won’t need five more games to win two.

NBA rumors: Warriors' season over in Adam Silver plan likely to pass

NBA rumors: Warriors' season over in Adam Silver plan likely to pass

It appears that the Warriors' tumultuous 2019-20 season has come to a merciful end.

The NBA's board of governors is expected to approve league commissioner Adam Silver's recommendation for a restart of the NBA season with 22 teams, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports citing league sources.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The potential plan would involve both play-in and regular-season games to solidify the playoff picture, all hosted at ESPN's Wide World of Sports inside DisneyWorld. Golden State currently sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a 15-50 record, far out of the realm of postseason contention.

Wojnarowski also reports that the league has not put full support behind any of the proposals, but a full 30-team return has been taken off the table. This likely would have been the only way for the Warriors to be part of this restart plan.

[RELATED: No Warriors bigger help to James Harden's title quest than weight loss]

In addition to the 16 teams currently in the playoff picture, the 22-team proposal includes any team within six games of the eighth and final playoff spot. The New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs would join the fold from the Western Conference, while the Washington Wizards would be the lone Eastern Conference team earning a spot.

Fans hoping to get one more glimpse of Steph Curry in a Warriors uniform this season likely will have to wait until the 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Warriors' Steve Kerr said George Floyd's death led to 'soul-searching'

Warriors' Steve Kerr said George Floyd's death led to 'soul-searching'

Steve Kerr hasn't been afraid to use his platform to speak his mind.

The Warriors coach has consistently criticized President Donald Trump. He has publicly pushed for what he thinks are desperately needed gun-control reforms. Kerr, a white coach in a predominantly black sport, has also repeatedly spoken out against racism and police brutality toward African Americans, including in the wake of George Floyd's death in the custody of Minneapolis police earlier this week.

Kerr also thinks he and other white people can do more to advance racial equality.

"[Even] though I've tried, I haven't done enough and I don't think any of us have done enough," Kerr told 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" on Friday afternoon. "When I say us, I mean white people. We haven't done enough. It's just the truth. If we had, this sort of thing wouldn't be happening."

Bystanders in Minneapolis recorded video of former officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, kneeling on Floyd's neck for approximately eight minutes as the 46-year-old African American man pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Chauvin and three other officers at the scene were fired Tuesday, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of manslaughter and third-degree murder. Charging documents alleged that Chauvin's knee remained on Floyd's neck for nearly three minutes while Floyd was unresponsive, though a preliminary autopsy determined there were “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”

Floyd's death set off protests in the Twin Cities beginning Tuesday. Protesters demonstrated nationwide Friday, including in San Jose and Oakland. Athletes with ties to the Bay Area, including Floyd's longtime friend and former Warrior Stephen Jackson as well as ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have spoken out in recent days. Jackson, in particular, called on white people to join the voices advocating for social justice and racial equality.

Kerr noted Kaepernick tried to bring attention to situations like Floyd's with his peaceful protest during the 2016 NFL season, but he said the QB "basically got shut down" for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since becoming a free agent in 2017, while a Rutgers University study published last year found African American men and boys are nearly 2.5 times more likely to die in an encounter with police than white men and boys.

"I guess I'm saying it's not enough to sign a petition, or send a tweet or make a statement," Kerr said of himself and other white people. "We have to actually do something. There's got to be a call to action, and then we need a list of things to check off, and we need to do them collectively and demand that those things be done. It's embarassing and humiliating that we're still in this place, and it's tough to reconcile all this stuff."

[RELATED: Jackson calls for justice for 'my twin' George Floyd at rally]

Kerr told the hosts he will rely on his friends who are involved in race relations and community organizing to learn how he can help. After a lot of "soul-searching" this week, Kerr said there is more work to be done.

"There's so many things that have to happen in order for the African American community to gain the racial equality, the social justice that they deserve," he said in the interview. "And it matters because we're all Americans, and we're all together and what happens to one person affects what happens to the next person, and so on. It's been really demoralizing to feel the divide that exists in the country, and especially when that divide is exacerbated by our President on a daily basis, on an hourly basis. I'm frustrated, I'm humiliated, but I'm also determined to try to do more."