Entering Game 1 of this highly anticipated Western Conference Finals between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, the vast majority of fans held several assumptions about how the series would play out.
People expected high-powered offenses that often looked unstoppable. They expected some of the best players in the world — Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul, to name a few — to look like the superstars and future Hall of Famers they are. They expected some chippiness between two teams who have waited all season for this inevitable matchup for a chance to play in the NBA Finals.
And, for the most part, they expected the high-powered Warriors to ultimately be too good, too difficult to stop, and able to beat teams in too many ways for the Rockets to beat them four times in seven tries.
If Game 1 was any indication, most people were right.
Kevin Durant and James Harden were incredible, combining for 78 points. The other stars took their turns doing what they do best; Curry and Klay Thompson hit 3-pointers with their patented lightning-fast releases. Chris Paul, despite not playing his best game, added 23 points and took some of the pressure off Harden at times. Role players like Draymond Green and Clint Capella did what they do, whether it be shut-down defense, receiving alley-oops, or getting in the middle of the kind of chippiness only a matchup between the NBA’s two best teams can create.
And, in the end, the Warriors were simply too good, too fast, and too skilled to stop.
It starts with Durant, perhaps the best pure scorer ever, who looked every bit the part in Game 1. His 37 points came with ease; he scored inside, he scored outside, he hit tough jumpers and crazy-athletic layups. He did it all.
Golden State’s second-best player in Game 1 wasn’t Curry but rather Thompson, who added 28 points on 6-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc. In a game where Curry struggled relative to his usual baseline, Thompson’s ability to play the Curry role as a shooter was a prime example of how difficult the Warriors are to stop; even when the best shooter on the planet has an off night, they have another top-five shooter on the planet to shoulder the load.
And speaking of Curry, even while only scoring 18 on just 1-of-5 shooting from distance, he added eight assists and created several momentum-swinging turnovers on the defensive end of the floor.
The Rockets didn’t play poorly. In fact, for the most part, they played exceptionally well. Harden was matching Durant bucket-for-bucket, including hitting five 3-pointers. Every time the Warriors threatened to run away with the game, Harden pulled them back within striking distance.
Paul didn’t have his best game, but added several big buckets and even contributed on the glass with 11 rebounds. Capella played inspired defense and forced the Warriors’ various weapons into tough shots on several occasions. Eric Gordon added 15 points off the bench with some timely 3-pointers.
And, as expected by the majority of prognosticators, it wasn’t enough. 41 points from Harden wasn’t enough. Shutdown defense from Capella wasn’t enough. A bad shooting night from Curry wasn’t enough.
The Warriors showed what we all knew; they can beat you too many ways, have too many weapons, and simply have too much firepower to stop for 48 minutes.
The Rockets have plenty of positives to take away from Game 1. But they’ve lost home-court advantage, and despite an all-out effort from the league’s MVP, couldn’t take down the mighty Warriors.
Yes, Game 1 was a showcase of all the things we’ve all been waiting to see from this Western Conference Finals. But one of those things was the Warriors simply being too good to lose this series, and Game 1 only cemented that assumption along with the rest.
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