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A Butt-Kicking

Houston 127, Golden State 105.

May 17, 2018 - 10:45 am

Houston 127, Golden State 105. And if you watched Game 1, you were probably pretty surprised by last night. One guy who wasn’t surprised: Steve Kerr. He’s seen this before. You could tell during his in-game interview that he was concerned about how his team showed up in the first quarter. And that didn’t change throughout the game. 

So what happened? Well, I’ll let Kerr answer that.

Yep. That’s about right. Houston did kick Golden State’s butts. And there is no other way to say it. 

Well, another way to say it is that things like this happen. Teams that win 65 games in the regular season and have two Hall of Famers in their starting five are usually pretty good teams and they rarely get swept in the playoffs. 

Houston was going to come out with everything they had. And they did. They were good in the first quarter and even better in the second quarter. And they fully braced themselves for Golden State’s third quarter blitz and even managed to win that quarter as well. 

Houston played like their playoff lives were on the line. Because they were. Golden State played like it was a mid-week second game of a back-to-back against the Pistons in January. They were sloppy defensively, sloppy offensively, and when Houston got physical with them, they didn’t really respond. 

As Draymond Green said, “I just think our game plan discipline wasn’t good. We knew what type of force they’d come out with. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. We just didn’t have really good game-plan discipline.”

Agreed. They were loose with the ball on offense and they were a mess on defense. They were getting in bad matchups. They were reaching. They were giving up and-ones. Houston was finding Steph Curry and going right at him. 

He’ll tell you he’s okay. Steve Kerr will tell you he’s okay. But he doesn’t look okay. Put it another way, Steph doesn’t look like Steph. And James Harden and Chris Paul are attacking him every chance they get. 

Don’t get me wrong. Houston is a good team. They’re a very good team. Bad teams don’t win 65 games. But when P.J. Tucker is lighting you up for 22 on 8 of 9 shooting, that’s a sign that they’re doing something very well and you’re doing something very wrong. 

When P.J. Tucker is looking like dead eye Steve Kerr in his prime, in a Western Conference Finals game, that’s interesting. Just as Nick Young getting 17 minutes in a Western Conference Finals game. Hell, there was even a Joe Johnson sighting when things really got out of hand. 

And while it wasn’t a good Warriors performance by any stretch, it’s important to remember: they do this. They have games like this every so often, like Game 3 against New Orleans, when the Pelicans smashed them by 19. 

And of course these Rockets are not those Pelicans, but to the Warriors, I’m not so sure. When they ripped homecourt the way they did in Game 1, Houston didn’t look like much of a threat. Last night should serve as that wakeup call. Because Houston can score, that was never in doubt, even after everyone freaked out about Houston’s offensive strategy in Game 1. 

The big difference was that Houston locked-in on defense. Klay Thompson wasn’t getting those open looks where nobody was within 10 feet of him. They were killed on the glass. Curry only had one three, as a team they only had nine. 

What does it all mean? Golden State still got the split. Golden State’s still going back to Oracle with home court. Golden State is still in the driver’s seat. But Game 3 just got a little more interesting. Check that, a lot more interesting. And from the looks of things, we might just get the series we’ve all been waiting.  And that’s nothing I would have said or did say after Game 1.