Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. Houston Rockets (65-17)
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals (Warriors lead 1-0)
NBA Basketball: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018, 9:00 PM @ Toyota Center
FREE NBA BASKETBALL PICK GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS. HOUSTON ROCKETS
On Monday night, the Golden State Warriors entered a Playoff series without home court advantage for the first time since Steve Kerr took over as Head Coach before the 2014-15 season. The response to this unique challenge was one that we should expect from a team that was capable of steamrolling through the NBA Playoffs with a 16-1 record less than 12 months ago. In just 48 minutes, the Warriors made Houston’s season-long attempt to secure home court advantage in a prospective Conference Finals meeting look awfully silly. The Houston crowd was alive during a back and forth 1st half, but a halftime tie quickly turned into a double-digit Warriors lead in the 3rd quarter, and the Rockets were never able to recover. Kevin Durant made the Rockets pay for refusing to send help his way, scoring 37 points on better than 50 percent shooting from the field. Klay Thompson’s 28 points made up for a mostly quiet night for Stephen Curry.
With that said, Golden State’s win wasn’t so convincing that the Houston Rockets should be heading into tonight’s Game 2 without any hope. James Harden scored 41 points in a remarkable, yet head-scratching iso-heavy performance. According to Second Spectrum, the Rockets led the NBA in 22 isolation plays per game during the regular season. On Monday night Houston had 45 iso plays, the most by any team in a game over the past five seasons. Before critiquing Houston’s stylistic preferences too much, it should be noted that Harden was working to get matched up with Golden State’s weakest defender each possession, and he scored 25 points off of isolations in Game 1.
Outside of Harden and Chris Paul (23 points and 11 rebounds in his first career Conference Finals game), the Rockets didn’t get the production they needed from the rest of the roster. Luc Mbah a Moute, P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon shot a combined 4 for 16 (25 percent) from three point range in Game 1, a notably poor night from a quartet that hit nearly 37 percent of their three’s in the regular season.
Current Trends courtesy of Cover The Spread 365:
Golden State Warriors
25-3 SU in the NBA Playoffs with Kevin Durant on the roster
6-4 SU in their last ten away games
2-5 SU as an underdog this year
50-6 SU with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela in the line-up
7-3 SU in their last ten home games
8-4 SU this year after a home loss to same opponent
#1 seeds are 6-4 SU in Game 2’s after losing Game 1 in Conference Finals in last 15 years
FREE NBA BASKETBALL HOUSTON ROCKETS VS GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS PREDICTION
Game 2 will be the most desperate that we see the Houston Rockets all year. If Houston plays with a renewed sense of urgency and if they fix up some of their Game 1 missteps, it’s entirely possible that they will even the series, guaranteeing at least one more game this year in Houston. I don’t expect that Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni will make any major adjustments in how his team defends Kevin Durant. Some nights Durant won’t shoot as well on contested mid-range jumpers as he did in Game 1. It’s better to try to force Durant to beat you with challenged two’s than to send help and be forced to scramble defensively to prevent other Warriors sharpshooters from getting open looks from downtown. The percentages say that they’ll make you pay. Just like in Game 1, expect half a dozen defenders to get a shot on Durant throughout the game.
Here’s what makes Golden State so dangerous though … even if Durant has an off shooting night in Game 2, the Warriors have so many other ways they can beat you, it’s just ridiculous. The evidence: Golden State outscored Houston by seven points in the seven minutes Durant and Curry were on the bench together in Game 1. Sometimes you just have to fight the good fight, understanding that you’re outclassed, until the bitter end. I think that’s what we see from Houston tonight.