Houston 2, Golden State 2

Series tied.

Jim Rome
May 07, 2019 - 9:26 am
PJ Tucker

USA Today

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And now it’s all tied up. Houston 2, Golden State 2. The Rockets beat the Warriors last night 112-108 to even the series. And if you think this isn’t going 7, you might want to re-think that. If you wanted to say this series over after Golden State won the first two, you might want that one back too. 

The Rockets spent the last year telling everyone they not only wanted the Warriors, but they could beat the Warriors. That they were the only team who could do it, and after two games in Houston, it’s hard to disagree with them. From Daryl Morey on down, they believe it. They know it. When other teams wanted to wait out the Warriors, Morey wanted to knock out the Warriors. So he built a team that could do it.

That’s why it was so weird, and frankly so beneath them, that they spent so much time complaining about the refs after Game 1. Because they don’t need the refs. They can win this series straight up.

And it’s not because they have James Harden, although he’s been ridiculous. He had 38 last night, including this joke from about a mile away.

Absolutely stupid. But let’s be honest, as good as Harden was last night in all facets of the game, it comes back to the stepback three. There isn’t a more predictable but unstoppable shot in the game than a Harden stepback three. You know it’s coming and yet dudes continue to get wrecked Time and time again.

 Guys like Klay Thompson.

And Draymond Green.

Those are two vets who are experienced defenders. Great defenders. Lock down defenders. And he still beats them with it. Because it’s impossible to stop. He gets you off-balance, he gets you leaning, and then you can cancel Christmas.

But last night wasn’t about James Harden. And it wasn’t about Eric Gordon, who was a beast in Houston, with 30 in Game 3 and 20 in Game 4.

No, last night was about one Anthony Leon “P.J.” Tucker Jr.  That was an attitude game. A statement game. And the statement was, we have PJ Tucker and you don’t. And PJ Tucker has the offensive rebounds.

How many offensive rebounds? All the offensive rebounds. Last night wasn’t a James Harden game, it was a PJ Tucker game.

He was an absolute monster. When he wasn’t causing Durant problems on defense, he was causing all of Golden State problems on the glass. For stretches of the game, it felt like Houston’s shots were either going in the basket or into PJ Tucker’s hands. I was stunned to look at the box score and see that he only had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Because it felt like he had 17 points and about a hundred rebounds. He was everywhere.

It was like the team reviewed film from the first two games of the series where they were outrebounded by Golden State and PJ Tucker just said, to hell with all that… I got this!  Because he did! Because he had that. He had everything.

And for big chunks of the game, he was the biggest Rocket on the floor. He’s 6’6. Houston went small-ball. James Harden was frequently the second-tallest Rocket out there and they still out-rebounded the Warriors, and manhandled them on the offensive glass in particular. Harden had ten rebounds. Chris Paul had eight. Austin Rivers had six.

And why was that? Draymond Green has an idea.

That’s why it was important for Houston to get Golden State as early as possible, because that way they’d be as fresh as possible. Harden is fresh. Paul is healthy. They’ve got bounce and they’ve got juice. They won those two games with incredible skill, and also with incredible energy and effort. And in large part that what it is came down to: Golden State just could not match Houston’s effort, energy, intensity or physicality: or as Steve Kerr points out, their toughness:

It did feel like middle linebackers vs. volleyball players. And it wasn’t just rebounds, it was loose balls too. It seemed like the Rockets got to every loose ball and won every hustle play. The Sam and Will linebackers were beating up the setter and the outside hitter.

And speaking out hitting from the outside, the Warriors should could use a little of that right now. 8 for 32 from deep last night.

But it wasn’t about the three point shooting, although that would help Golden State. Because as poorly as they shot from outside, they still had a look at that game. They really didn’t deserve a look at tying the game, but they had two very good ones in the end nonetheless.

That’s the thing that’s crazy about this series. The Warriors won the first two games by 4 points and 6 points, and people rush in to say it’s’ over. Then Houston wins the next two by 5 points and 4 points. And now we’re all tied up and it looks like it could go down as one of the best series ever. And it might. Hall of famers all over the floor, hating on each other, balling the hell out and looking like they’re on a collision course for 7. That’s exactly what the league needed. Exactly what we all needed? The thing we waited on all year long is playing out exactly like we hoped it would. Nothing ever lives up to the hype, except this throw down is. And save that bullcrap about the series never starting until someone wins on the road. And if you’re a Golden State fan and you think it’s still a lock because you have a potential Game 7 in your barn, think again. Because the thing Houston wants most of all, is to know beat Golden State, but to beat them and shut down oracle in a Game 7, on the road, to go to the Finals. And they sure as hell might. They sure as hell might. Now it’s a best of 3: who you got. And what’s it going to come down to.