Golden State’s first playoff game was about as close as China is to London.
The Warriors devastated James Harden and the Rockets to the tune of 104-78, causing Houston players to scream at each other on the floor and in huddles.
Stephen Curry — whose first three-point attempt of the day became an uncalled yet classic goaltend by Rockets center Dwight Howard, and just moments later scuffled with guard Patrick Beverley — scored 24 points during the first half alone.
Which is pretty close to what the entire Rockets team did during the same span, scoring only 33 points to Golden State’s 60. The Warriors defense stymied Houston to only 35.9 percent field goal shooting while Harden also committed four fouls.
Houston scored the fourth most points of any NBA team during the regular season.[envira-gallery id=”179691″]
Late in the first half, Curry planted awkwardly on his right ankle and headed to the locker room shortly after. It initially looked as though he was just going in early, with less than a minute left on the clock.
Curry, though, did not return to the game, and is being considered questionable for Game 2 on Monday with a “tweaked right ankle.”
“I felt like a kid in timeout on the bench. Probably didn’t have a great face, frustrated because it’s different rotations and different flow of the game when I go out there early, but they bounced back, made plays. Defense was the key for us all night.”
He didn’t need to come back in. The first 24 minutes were enough to put Houston away, even as they ran many of their starters against the Warriors second team.
Golden State’s 27-point halftime lead was the franchise’s largest in a playoff game in the shot clock era, which began in 1954, and Houston’s 33 first half points are the fewest the Warriors have allowed in a playoff first half.
Harden was the Rockets’ leading scorer with 17 points, while Howard managed 11 rebounds.
Curry grabbed seven boards in his 20 first half minutes, same for Andrew Bogut in 16 minutes, while Draymond Green scored 12 points with 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals in just over 30 minutes.
The chippiness early in the game was hotly discussed between media and players and coaches on either team. Every side said physical play is expected. It’s the playoffs, a whole different game.
But Howard said that there was an adverse affect on Houston:
“I think we allowed it to get us a little frustrated.”
“We knew that it would be physical like that. It’s what you expect coming into the playoffs. It’s going to be a very physical game. Teams are going to try and rough you up.”
“There was nothing dirty, there were a few physical plays. That’s to be expected.”
Houston fought back during the third quarter, gaining some ground while they ran much of their first string against the Golden State bench. No enough, though, while they closed the large gap, it remained in double digits for the remainder of the night.
Green was the first Warriors starter to check back in, and once he did, the tide shifted towards Golden State. An instant sway, like a chandelier in hurricane force winds.
“One thing we do know is that they showed in the third quarter for a bit that no matter how much they’re down, they could come back. So you have to stay locked in. One thing we know about the playoffs is every game is different. So next game won’t be the same. Can it have the same outcome? If we come out and play our brand of basketball it could. But we’re not coming out expecting that.”
“We know this is a very talented ballclub. James struggled tonight and he didn’t get to the free throw line, which is where his points come from. So you’ve got to expect that to be a little different come Game 2. So this doesn’t tell us how the series will go. You look at their starters and it’s who they are, it’s not who they’ve been.”
The Warriors and Rockets spar once again on Monday evening, where Golden State will look for their fifth consecutive home playoff win versus Houston.