The Golden State Warriors are built for the postseason, and they’re sending the NBA a message that they aren’t ready to give up their spot as league champion. The Dubs opened a playoff series on the road for the first time since 2014, but that didn’t seem to bother them in a 119-106 takedown of the top-seeded Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Monday night. In the last three postseasons, the Warriors are 33-7 against teams from the Western Conference.
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Game 2 of the Western Conference Final is set for Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 9 p.m. ET from the Toyota Center in Houston. The game will be nationally televised on TNT.
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The Warriors had been favored in every postseason game before playing as a 2.5-point dog in Monday’s opener. That certainly didn’t affect them as the Dubs raced to the finish line in the second-half to win outright. Despite Golden State’s 13-point win, the hometown Rockets were pegged by oddsmakers as the favorite again for Game 2, opening as 2-point chalk.
Houston’s league-best home record has plenty to do with that. However, two of the Rockets losses at the Toyota Center this season have been dealt by the Warriors. Houston battled all season to earn homecourt advantage and they need to salvage one of the first two games or this much-anticipated matchup will end sooner than most expected.
With the two highest scoring offenses during the regular season going at it we expect the total to be high and it opened at 224.5. With all the talented scorers on the floor, we forget the teams can play some defense. The under cashed in Game 1 and the Dubs have played below the total in four straight games while the Rockets cashed the under in three of their last four outings.
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The game lived up to the hype for about three quarters until the Warriors pulled away for the 119-106 victory on Monday night. James Harden dropped 41 points, but the Dubs used the sharpshooting ability of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, who combined for 65 points, to outscore the Rockets.
And the Warriors turned up the pressure on defense to force 16 Houston turnovers, which they converted into 17 points. Golden State had only nine miscues and a 17-9 edge in points off of them. Stats-wise the game was close in several categories. Each team hit 13 three-pointers, but the Warriors shot nearly 62 percent on their 2-point tries. And they were deadly when given open looks, scoring 54 points on uncontested shots.
The Warriors used one of their patented second-half spurts to take control of Game 1 and they didn’t let up. Over the course of the postseason, the Dubs have outscored opponents by 62 points in the third quarter and they turned a tie game at halftime into a 7-point lead entering the fourth quarter. And every time the Rockets made a run, the Warriors countered, never relinquishing the advantage.
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Stephen Curry was a non-factor on Monday and the Warriors still won by 13 points. That’s not a good sign for the Rockets. Curry scored 18 points on 8 of 15 shooting, but made just 1 of 5 three-pointers and missed his first free throw of the postseason.
But that’s a luxury the Warriors have and what sets them apart from every other team. When you’re two-time MVP has an off-night, there’s always someone else to pick up the slack. This time it was Durant and Thompson, and it’s hard to put a blanket over all three of them.
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The Warriors struck the first blow and stole homecourt advantage, making Game 2 real important for the hopes of the Rockets. According to Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets had too many mental lapses that resulted in careless turnovers and bad switches on defense. And that allowed Golden State to take control of the contest.
Houston is more than capable of running with the Dubs and they showed that all season. Now they have to tighten up defensively and value the basketball. Harden and Chris Paul have come too far to give it away and I expect the Rockets to play a much better all-around game. They won’t shutdown the Warriors, but added possessions will result in more scoring opportunities giving value to the over. The Rockets haven’t lost two straight at home since early January, and I don’t think they do now.
NBA ATS Pick: Rockets 117, Warriors 110