Durant leads Golden State to Game 1 win
It started so well for the Houston Rockets.
James Harden had nine points in the first two minutes, Draymond Green received a technical foul after just 1:07 and the crowd had the building shaking.
But as the Golden State Warriors have done so often in the last four seasons, they took the punches thrown at them and delivered their own.
A 14-4 run midway through the third led to a seven-point three quarter time lead which was all the Warriors needed, as they batted away any chances of a Rockets comeback to emerge 119-106 victors.
The Warriors’ ability to absorb what’s being thrown at them by an opposition team and strike right back is one of the reasons why they are so hard to beat over a seven-game series.
The Rockets’ biggest lead came in the first quarter when they went up by nine, 23-14, just after the visitors had called a timeout. For most teams, they could have spiralled; put off by the intensity at which Houston plays at or the raucous Rockets crowd.
But these Warriors are different than almost any team in NBA history.
Their multiple scoring options keep them in any game even when facing large deficits.
Kevin Durant led the way for Golden State in Game 1. Last season’s Finals MVP scored a team-high 37 points, showing why he is so important to the Warriors as no Rockets player could guard him.
On isolation plays (when a player goes one on one against a defender), Durant shot a ridiculous 10-of-13 from the field, seemingly scoring at will and giving the reigning champs a needed boost on a night where Steph Curry shot just one-of-5 from three on his way to 18 points.
Klay Thompson hit a game-high six three-pointers and finished with 28 points. Three of his triples came in the fourth quarter, the third his most important as it ended a Houston comeback and stretched the Golden State lead back out to 10 points.
Houston will need to get back to the isolation offensive game style that led to a franchise record 65 wins in the regular season, as they shot just 12-of-18 from the field combined on isolation plays, only two more buckets than Durant had in total.
Harden scored a game-high 41 points while Chris Paul added 23, but both appeared to defer to teammates on several possessions in the fourth quarter that led to turnovers, all but ending Houston’s chances of taking a 1-0 series lead.
The Rockets will need vastly different games from its other three starters in Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker. The trio combined to score just 21 points with Tucker managing a solitary point.
Game 2 starts at 11am Thursday, AEST.