8:00 PM EST, TNT – Line: Warriors -7, Over/Under: 226.5
With the Western Conference Finals now tied at One Game apiece, the scene shifts to the Bay Area as the Golden State Warriors host the Houston Rockets in Game Two from ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. After getting thoroughly outclassed in the Opener, the Rockets (65-17, 1st in Western Conference) managed to right the ship in Game Two, running the reigning Champs out of the Toyota Center in style, earning a watershed 127-105 victory to square the Series away. After getting embarrassed in many ways in Game One, Mike D’Antoni’s charges effectively flipped the script on a multitude of fronts, reminding everyone as to just how special they were throughout the Regular Season. First and foremost, Houston managed to earn advantages in a pair of key categories; the Hosts outscored the Visiting Side 12-7 in Fast Break Points, while drawing Fifteen Points from Warriors’ Turnovers (Fifteen). This also allowed the affair to be competed at a much higher Pace than it’s predecessor, for Game Two featured a Pace of 99.3 Possessions per 48 Minutes, a considerable increase from the 96.9 in Game One. This acceleration in approach was apparent in the fact that the Rockets only had Eight Possessions in which they shot the basketball with fewer than Five Seconds remaining on the Shot Clock, a clear indication of their desire to push the Tempo. Furthermore, the Supporting Cast showed up in a major way, as the duo of P.J. Tucker (6.1 PTS, 39.0% FG, 37.1% 3FG, 5.6 REB, 0.9 AST, 1.0 STL, 8.3 PER) and Trevor Ariza (11.7 PTS, 41.2% FG, 36.8% 3FG, 4.4 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.5 STL, 11.8 PER) combined for a stellar Forty-One Points on 15-of-18 Shooting from the Field (83.3%), including 6-of-9 from beyond the Arc (66.7%), while Eric Gordon (18.0 PTS, 42.8% FG, 35.9% 3FG, 2.5 REB, 2.2 AST, 0.6 STL, 15.2 PER) broke out of his slump dropping another Twenty-Seven Points from the Bench. Getting that kind of production from Tucker, known as a Defensive Stopper, and Ariza is a Godsend for D’Antoni and his Staff, particularly after both experienced a miserable Game One, in which they combined for Nine Points on a dreadful 3-of-11 Shooting (27.3%), racking up nearly as many Personal Fouls (Eight) as Points Scored (Nine). And it’s a good thing they did, for this is one Series in which they can’t rely upon James Harden (30.4 PTS, 44.9% FG, 36.7% 3FG, 5.4 REB, 8.8 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.7 BLK, 29.8 PER) to carry them for up to Seven Games. The likely MVP Shooting Guard struggled mightily shooting the basketball in Game Two, scoring a team-best Twenty-Seven Points on a dismal 9-of-24 Shooting from the Field (37.5%), including 3-of-15 from Downtown (20.0%), while committing more Turnovers (Four) than Assists (Three). With that said, Houston was on fire from the jump, shooting a blistering 51.1% from the Floor, including a torrid 16-of-42 from Three (38.1%), outscoring Golden State by a whopping Twenty-One Points in that regard, while dishing out Twenty-Three Assists in comparison to thirteen Turnovers. They also did a tremendous job of harassing their counterpart on the defensive end, relegating the Warriors to 45.9% Shooting, including 9-of-30 from beyond the Arc (30.0%), and outrebounding them Forty-Seven to Thirty-Six. Despite meeting on three occasions in the Regular Season, only one was contested at ORACLE Arena, and that was all the way back on October 17th, the Opening Night for both teams, in which Harden & Co. rallied back to take a 122-121 Victory.
Meanwhile, it appears that we now have a Series ladies and gentlemen, as the Warriors (58-24, 2nd in Western Conference) were dealt a cold reminder of their own mortality in Game Two’s 127-105 Rout at the Toyota Center. After humbling the No. One Seed in the West in Game One, the reining NBA Champions were bested handedly in Game Two, trailing by as many as Nineteen in the First Half, proving incapable of closing the gap at any point in the contest. While Kevin Durant (26.4 PTS, 51.6% FG, 41.9% 3FG, 6.8 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.8 BLK, 26.0 PER) once again had his way Houston’s defense, scoring Thirty-Eight Points 13-of-22 Shooting from the Field (59.1%), including 3-of-7 from Three (42.9%), along with 9-of-9 from the Free-Throw Line (100.0%), the rest of Steve Kerr’s Rotation was fairly dreadful, particularly the other members of the fabled Hampton’s Five. More specifically, the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry (26.4 PTS, 49.5% FG, 42.3% 3FG, 5.1 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.6 STL, 28.2 PER) and Klay Thompson (20.0 PTS, 48.8% FG, 44.0% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 00.5 BLK, 16.1 PER), had a really rough night, combining for a disappointing Twenty-Four Points on 10-of-29 Shooting Overall (34.5%) from the Floor, including an uncharacteristically poor 3-of-12 from Downtown (25.0%). This was a steep departure from Game One, in which the pair of lethal snipers accounted for Forty-Six Points on 17-of-33 Shooting (51.5%), including 7-of-20 from beyond the Arc (35.0%). While it’s anyone’s guess as to just how healthy Curry actually is (he returned early in the West Semifinals after missing over Twenty Games with a Sprained Knee), Thompson is the real key to reaching a fourth consecutive NBA Finals. The 4-Time All-Star caught Fire in Game One, scoring Twenty-Eight Points on 9-of-18 Shooting (50.0%), while also drawing the defensive assignment of hounding the aforementioned Harden for long stretches of the affair. While he clearly made Harden work everything in Game Two, it came at the expense of any energy he needed to get open on the offensive end of the court, as Houston did a much better job of staying with both he and Curry on the perimeter. Thompson could only muster Eight Points on Wednesday Night, missing all but three of his eleven shots. Expect Kerr to explore other options in terms of defending the league’s Scoring Champion, potentially shifting veteran Wingman Andre Iguodala (6.0 PTS, 46.3% FG, 28.2% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 3.3 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.6 BLK, 11.2 PER) or potentially even Reserves such as Shaun Livingston (5.5 PTS, 50.1% FG, 1.8 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.5 STL, 11.6 PER) in an attempt to preserve one of his primary offensive weapons. Something to definitely look for in Game Three though is how Golden State’s Supporting Cast plays at home. It’s no secret that Role Players tend to play better on their home floor, particularly in the Playoffs, with Houston’s latest showing proving this to theory to be fact once again. The Warriors were outscored 38-32 in terms of Bench Points in Game Two, and 59-52 throughout the first two games at Toyota Center. Thus far Kerr’s troops are 6-0 at home this Postseason, and are currently riding a 15-Game Winning Streak in the Playoffs at ORACLE, with their last defeat being nearly Two Years ago, as they were eliminated in Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals.