Continuing their defense of their crown, the Golden State Warriors benefited from a little help on Sunday night as they took on the Houston Rockets in a series that easily could be for the NBA Championship, not a chance to advance to the conference championship.
In a series that should be about the absolute and immense talent these two Western Conference juggernauts are bringing to the table, Game 1’s narrative became more about the officiating. As Golden State looks to go up 2-0, what will be the story of Game 2 tonight (10.35pm ET Tuesday)?
Refs and Rockets
A series of this caliber shouldn’t come down to the referees but after Game 1, which the Warriors won by a final score of 104-100, the story of this highly anticipated rematch from last year is about the black and white stripes. It was recently reported that after the Western Conference Finals in 2018, in which the Rockets lost their chance to play for the NBA Championship to the Warriors, that Houston filed a memo to the league to complain about the officiating. According to the Rockets, who audited the do-or-die Game 7 between the teams, there were 81 instances of bad calls that cost Houston 18.6 points.
Now of course, bad calls aside, there were other reasons the Rockets failed to defeat the Warriors, namely that they went 7-of-44 from beyond the arc and missed an incredible 27 straight three-point attempts. It was a historically bad performance from a team that had been one of the league’s best three-point shooting squads all season long. It’s easier to assign blame to someone else and that’s what the Rockets did.
In a case of history repeating itself, the team seemed to do the exact same thing after their Game 1 loss. Toward the end of the game, with Houston down three, James Harden believed he was fouled while shooting a three-pointer, which could have tied the game. There was no call, which eventually led to Chris Paul getting himself ejected as he attempted to argue. During the post-game press conference, the Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni noted several other missed calls including ones that referees apologized to him for during halftime.
While bad officiating could be confined to one game and one loss, the Rockets are seemingly already preparing to be robbed again as it was announced that Scott Foster will be one of the officials involved in Game 2. It’s not often a referee gets name-dropped but there is history between Foster and the Rockets. So much so, that Rockets’ star James Harden said that he didn’t believe Foster should be allowed to officiate the team’s games anymore. Since February he hadn’t, but this is the playoffs and the rotations are different. He officiated the Rockets/Warriors series last year, in which all three games he was involved in, Houston lost.
Perhaps the Rockets are right to have a beef against Foster and the NBA. Either way, if Houston loses, no matter by how many points, you can be sure they will claim that Foster and the officiating are the reason why. Maybe that’s a fair case to make at some level, given the Rockets played well on Sunday. Not well enough, but if a few more whistles had gone their way, the outcome very well could have been different.
Our Betting Preview’s Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors Predictions for Game 2 with Picks Verdict
In some ways, it is hard to offer a Rockets vs Warriors prediction and betting outcome for a game that is going to have so much emphasis on the referees and so much focus on how fouls are called. We could see an enormous amount of them. We could see fewer of them. The spotlight is on the black and white stripes and that could impact the game for either team, depending on how scrutinized the league and its referees feel, how much pressure they may be under to get it right.
That said, there are other elements to consider even if the game does come down to how the referees make their calls. Like the fact that Golden State is a pretty putrid 7-11 this season when playing the second of back-to-back home games.
If you are at all familiar with the Warriors, who not long ago hadn’t even lost 11 home games across two, maybe even three seasons combined, those numbers are shocking. Digging into them a little bit, they may not be concerning as the NBA has become a league where players rest on the second of a back-to-back. Especially on a team like the Warriors, who know full well just how much better they are than their competition, who know that they can rest or take it easy, and still be able to win the top seed in the playoffs.
This will be one back-to-back set of home games that Golden State will be taking seriously and not treating with a relaxed mentality. Stephen Curry, who has had some struggles lately, which is also un-Warrior-esque, will be playing as will Klay Thomson as will Kevin Durant, who may be the most in-form player in the postseason right now.
Durant has been carrying the Warriors and did so again Sunday night with 35 points. Curry had just 18, but the team still managed to place all five starters in double figures. Houston couldn’t say the same, though Harden did play as the MVP many are expecting he’ll be named, scoring 35 points as well. Paul’s production was lower than average but Eric Gordon stepped up big with 27 points. Again, if you were to ask the Rockets, who despite shooting just under 30 percent from three point range, their play wasn’t the issue, it was the calls.
Golden State enters this one as a 5.5 point favorite with the trustworthy sportsbooks for Americans. Even accounting for missed calls and points cost, the Rockets should still be able to stay within this margin. These are the Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors Game 2 predictions for this preview:
- Our pick is to take Houston +5.5pts @ best betting odds of -110 with Intertops. The other firms go -115.
- These two teams have a trend of staying on the under, so look for that to continue with the under 221 total points being scored @ -113 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.