Following their victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors will look to win another on the road and take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Houston Rockets today (9pm ET Wednesday).
For 24 minutes, the Rockets kept pace and even looked like they had a chance to take the first game from the two-time defending champion Warriors. Then the third quarter happened and the 56-56 halftime tie turned into a seven-point deficit, which Golden State later opened up into a 119-106 final score.
The Rockets were completely outplayed in the second half. It was like the Warriors spent the first two quarters feeling out their opponents and diagnosing how to beat them before actually going out and doing just that. By the end of the third quarter, the nine points Golden State once trailed by early in the game were long since erased and the Warriors came out playing their best basketball. Despite James Harden doing his best to keep his team in, leading all scorers with a game-high 41, it wasn’t enough. As they have been for seemingly the better part of the past three years, the Warriors were just too good.
Game 2 once again takes place in Houston, but having home court advantage doesn’t seem like it will make that much of a difference. After all, the Rockets and Warriors opened the series at Houston’s Toyota Center, the first time Golden State was the road team in the playoffs since 2014. The Warriors still came out on top in a game that ended up not even being particularly close. It was just the second home loss for the Rockets in all of the 2018 postseason.
There are a lot of reasons for concern for the Rockets, namely the fact that Stephen Curry only scored 18 points but they still lost by 13. If Curry gets going now that he is back from his injury, the Warriors are only going to get more and more unbeatable. Head coach Steve Kerr is optimistic that Curry is close to being back to his old self and if that happens this series, Houston really won’t stand a chance. Then there is the fact that the Rockets were unable to stop the other member of Golden State’s one-two punch, Kevin Durant. Durant recorded his fourth 30+ point game this postseason, leading the Warriors with a team-high 37 points. Klay Thompson added 28 points of his own as Golden State was clicking on all cylinders on Monday night.
Warriors vs Rockets Game 2 Preview
Following the loss in Game 1, James Harden spoke to his teammates and made his message perfectly clear saying he can’t do it by himself. Part of the issue is Harden has done it by himself most of this season as the Rockets offense focused on him as the centerpiece. Harden, who is one of the favorites to win the NBA MVP, averaged 30.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game during the regular season.
Harden led all scorers and was the only player to average over 30 points a game this season. His postseason average of 29.6 over the team’s 11 games is good enough for third best, between other MVP hopefuls, Anthony Davis and LeBron James, both of whom averaged/are averaging over 30 in their respective playoff runs.
Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers may be learning against the Boston Celtics, the Rockets too are learning that Harden alone may not be enough to get the job done. The only problem is, relying on Harden has been a big part of Houston’s strategy.
During the regular season, the Rockets were ranked last in the league when it came to passes per game. Of course, part of this had to do with the fact that Harden works best in iso. During the regular season, with Harden playing the way he did, this wasn’t a problem, but against a team like the Warriors, which has all of the means to defend Harden and limit his production, a low-rated passing plan doesn’t appear like it will be enough. The Warriors outpassed the Rockets 283 to 226 in Game 1.
Outside of Harden, only Clint Capela made over 50 percent of his field goal attempts, which is certainly not the formula for how the Rockets can beat Golden State. Contrast that with the Warriors, who had eight players make over half of their attempts and four score in double figures.
It is not really that Houston played poorly in Game 1, just that Golden State played better. That’s probably no real comfort to the Rockets however as knowing that they played well but still came up 13 points shy of the best team in basketball, isn’t exactly going to help them advance to the NBA Championship.
Houston will need a lot to go their way if they hope to win. On their end, they will need to get Chris Paul going. Paul had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night in terms of efficiency, requiring 17 shots to score just 23 points. The Rockets will definitely need more from him, and guys like Capela, going forward. They will also need to do something that so few teams have done all year and that is limit the Warriors’ production. Curry, Thompson and Durant combined to take 60 of Golden State’s 80 shots in Game 1. That number is incredibly high and actually the highest percentage of field goals the trio has ever attempted in a game. It is unlikely that same level of production is present in Game 2 but that doesn’t mean that the Rockets can let up.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
The expectation is that Houston will manage to get back on track in Game 2, especially given it’s at home. The United States’ best online sports betting firms seem to agree as they have actually got the Rockets pegged as one-point favorites in this one. It would be easy to pick the Warriors as they really are the best team in basketball and are playing like it, but sweeps in conference finals are so rare.
- The Rockets may not win the series, but look for them to get on the board with a win in Game 2. After that, this is probably Golden State’s series to win. Bet on the Rockets on the moneyline @ -115 with Bovada, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- Those two teams are built on offense so look for the over 224.5 total points to be scored @ -110 with Bookmaker or 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.