Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, NBA Playoffs

Warriors defense, Harden’s eye injury too much for Rockets to overcome

The Warriors once again separated themselves from the Rockets, using rebounding, defense and signature ball movement to take Game 2.

Game 2 of Golden State vs Houston felt like a clear example of the most obvious NBA statement of the last three years: lots of teams are good, some are really good, but no one can touch these Warriors when they care.

On Tuesday night, they cared.

The Rockets should be commended for a valiant effort, especially after their MVP candidate went out in the first quarter after Draymond Green inadvertently scratched both of his eyes while grabbing a rebound. James Harden would return in the second, squinting and blinking his way through the rest of the game, both eyes bloodshot. He was good but not great, and on this night, Houston needed him to be great.

The Rockets cut the lead to three points early in the fourth quarter, but as was the case most of the evening, when the Warriors needed a stop or a bucket, they got one. They’ll now head to Game 3 — after three days off — with a 2-0 series lead. Thankfully, we won’t have to talk about the refs during the long layoff, because for as gritty and hard-fought of a game as Tuesday was, the officiating was never an issue.

Golden State Warriors

115

Houston Rockets

109

Takeaways

The Warriors can still be an unholy beast on defense when they want to be. Golden State asserted themselves early on the end of the court that always seems to get overshadowed, forcing seven Rocket turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. Those led to 14 points and an early 19-8 advantage, which is where the lead would hover around for the rest of the night. Then late, the Warriors repeatedly stymied Houston’s attempts to feature Clint Capela in the pick and roll. In between, they were everywhere. Only some incredible long-range shot-making by the Rockets kept this one close. Speaking of which…

Did the Rockets just miss their best chance to get a game on the road? They might have. Before every Rockets series, the popular line is that Houston will go crazy from deep at least once and steal a win they’re not supposed to. Well on Tuesday, the Rockets went 17-for-40 on 3-pointers, good for 42.5 percent. We’ve seen them do a lot better, but against Golden State, how much better can they really expect to be? It might not matter if they don’t improve their work on the defensive glass, where they gave up 18 offensive rebounds to the Warriors. Every one of them felt huge.

Next: Bucks shoot the lights out, burying Celtics in Game 2

Kevin Durant…he’s really good. Of all the lofty praise thrown the Warriors way since KD came aboard, the most appropriate description of the two-time Finals MVP is that he is a luxury. No, Golden State doesn’t ever really need Durant…they still have enough shooting and playmaking to beat any team on any given night. But in Game 2, as he’s been doing for over a week now, Durant reminded everyone that no one can prevent him from getting a bucket when he wants one. His final stat line — 29 points on 22 shots — doesn’t truly capture just how impressive his performance was. He is still the single biggest offensive trump card in the league.

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