OAKLAND -- Emotions flying high, 3-pointers falling hard and neither team able to create separation, Game 1 of Warriors-Rockets lived up to the hype that preceded it.
With Kevin Durant scoring 35 points and Stephen Curry draining a massive triple with 24.4 seconds remaining, the Warriors were able to hold off Houston to nab a 104-100 victory, taking a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series that many believe features the league's two best teams.
Here are three takeaways from the Western Conference semifinal opener that was relatively close throughout at Oracle Arena:
Say hello to the Hamptons 5
The first indication of how seriously the Warriors are taking the Rockets came with their starting lineup: The “Hamptons 5,” with Curry and Klay Thompson at guards, Andre Iguodala and Durant at forwards, and Draymond Green at center.
This is the lineup Warriors coach Steve Kerr turns to when he wants to increase the pace, playing frenzied hyper-aggressive defense that generates turnovers.
The decision produced mixed results. The Warriors led for most of the first quarter, but they never could build a truly comfortable lead.
Because the Warriors won, it’s likely Kerr will stay with it for Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Aiding the enemy
The Warriors spent much of the game being their own worst enemy.
Though Houston’s defense appreciably improved over the second half of the regular season, it was only part of the reason the Warriors didn’t light up the scoreboard Sunday. They committed eight turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 13 in the first half.
Most of the giveaways were of the damaging live-ball variety. The empty possessions sabotaged the Warriors’ offense while also handing the Rockets easy buckets and free-throw opportunities. Houston scored 16 of its 53 first-half points courtesy of Warriors turnovers.
The Warriors committed 20 turnovers for the game, giving the Rockets 20 points. Houston’s 16 turnovers led to 10 points for Golden State.
The Warriors got through it this time, but there will be plenty of problems to study when they gather for their video session Monday.
Curry again battles foul trouble
Despite Curry’s tendency to get into foul trouble against the Clippers, the Warriors escaped the first round, largely because of Durant’s offensive brilliance. That formula shouldn’t be tried against Houston.
Yet there it was, Curry picking up his fourth foul with 4:34 left in the third quarter and the Warriors up 68-67. Curry went to the bench for Shaun Livingston. Something strange happened, though, as the Warriors outscored the Rockets 15-9 over the rest of the quarter.
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Curry took the floor for the fourth quarter and lasted less than four minutes, leaving with 8:01 remaining after being whistled for his fifth foul. He returned less than two minutes later and was able to close out the game and sink the big 3-pointer late.
The Warriors survived this in Game 1, but it’s a risky way to play and a problem they must address.