HOUSTON — The name got here in a bit of after 1 a.m. early Tuesday morning. PJ Tucker noticed the caller ID and shook his head. James Harden was calling to speak in regards to the Houston Rockets‘ demoralizing loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday. Tucker wasn’t positive if the MVP front-runner was calling to vent or cheer him up. Either method, he was in no temper.
“I was so mad I didn’t answer the phone,” Tucker advised ESPN on Wednesday night time after the Rockets righted the ship to win Game 2 127-105 and salvage a break up on their dwelling courtroom. “James was mad I did not reply. But it wasn’t a kind of the place we needed to speak it out. We all knew what occurred.
“We performed just like the Rockets tonight. The first sport, I do not know who that was.”
To a person, the Rockets insisted they did not change their strategy in Game 2 after being criticized for taking part in such an isolation-heavy sport Monday night time. If something, they appeared to double down on that strategy and method of being Wednesday night time. They simply did it an entire lot higher.
Houston’s passing in Game 2 led to a lot better pictures than it did in Game 1. On Wednesday, for instance, the Rockets created 12 uncontested Three-point pictures off assists and made six of them. In Monday’s loss they created solely 5 uncontested Three-pointers off assists and made two of them.
“I had higher alternatives. We moved the ball higher. Everybody was flattening pictures. Once we do this, how are you going to cease us?” mentioned Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who scored 27 factors together with six Three-pointers Wednesday.
“Everyone desires to speak about iso-ball. They’re going to play iso-ball and we’ll play iso-ball. What we did this time, once we performed iso ball, was hit the open man, who would hit the following shot. We have been simply passing the ball higher.”
According to Second Spectrum, the Rockets truly completed with extra isolation performs Wednesday (46) than they did Monday (45), after they ran extra isolations than any crew in any sport over the previous 5 years. This time although, it was unfold round extra equitably than within the Game 1 loss. Harden went from 26 isolation performs to 16, and Chris Paul elevated his from 10 to 16 — resulting in elevated playmaking alternatives for among the best level guards of all time.
Between Harden giving up extra of the playmaking tasks to Paul, and working extra performs for Tucker, Gordon and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets have been way more balanced offensively than in Game 1, when coach Mike D’Antoni joked that he’d must ask Harden to attain 55 factors after he completed with 41.
Harden did not shoot practically as properly Wednesday night time, hitting simply 9 of his 24 pictures, however the Rockets did not want him to hold them with the way more balanced assault. Ariza (19), Gordon (27) and Tucker (22) mixed for 68 factors on 70 % taking pictures Wednesday after an abysmal 24 mixed factors on 38 % taking pictures Monday.
After two days of defending their method of being in opposition to the criticism in Game 1, the Rockets felt vindicated Wednesday.
“Oh yeah,” D’Antoni said derisively, when asked if the change of fortunes was due to adjustments. “We went from the wide-open California offense to the triple risk. I imply, we modified every thing up.
“NO! We did exactly what we did. We played harder. We got into them. They felt us physical. We didn’t quite have that same intensity in the first game. Our guys are great and they learned from [Game 1], snapped back and did the job.”
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In a method, the Warriors did the identical factor. All season, Golden State has been its personal worst enemy, getting arrogantly sloppy when it demonstrates superiority over an opponent.
Usually that manifests with an abundance of turnovers, and Wednesday was no distinction. The Warriors had seven turnovers within the first quarter alone and 11 by halftime after solely 9 in all of Game 1.
“That’s who we are,” basic supervisor Bob Myers lamented at halftime.
Indeed, the Warriors have been 26th within the league in turnovers in the course of the common season, averaging 15.four per sport.
Golden State cleaned up a few of that sloppiness within the second half, with solely 4 turnovers that led to 4 Rockets factors. But the tone had been set.
“I think this game was a matter of the Rockets bringing the force that’s necessary to win a game and we didn’t,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr mentioned. “We had seven turnovers within the first quarter. We set the tone early with our personal play, and allowed them to get some confidence and a few straightforward buckets in transition. We let guys get going.
“We bought what we deserved. They kicked our butts. No different option to say it.”
The solely Warrior who gave the impression to be sharp Wednesday was Kevin Durant, who principally carried his crew when no one else might hit a shot or discover a rhythm. Durant had a game-high 38 factors on 13-of-22 taking pictures, however noticeably no assists because the Rockets compelled him into isolation conditions and determined to stay with the outcomes as long as he did not get anybody else concerned.
Stephen Curry was the one Warrior aside from Durant to complete in double figures, and he had an underwhelming 16 factors on 7-for-19 taking pictures. In the collection he has made simply two of his 13 seems from past the Three-point arc. His (-20) plus-minus score Wednesday was his worst all season. It’s the second time in his playoff profession he has scored fewer than 20 factors in consecutive video games. The final time got here within the first three video games of the 2016 NBA Finals, when Curry was getting back from the identical knee harm (a sprained MCL) as he is trying to this time.
Afterward, Curry insisted that his well being has nothing to do together with his subpar performances up to now this collection. However, after Game 1 he did concede that he’d tweaked one thing in the course of the sport. Kerr joked that Curry’s lingering harm points have been “13.7 %” accountable for his off night time. Instead he pointed to a scarcity of connection on protection, the place the Rockets are making a degree of focusing on Curry and forcing him to expend plenty of power. According to Second Spectrum, Curry was the first defender on 11 isolation performs, essentially the most of any Warrior. Kevon Looney (6) was the following most focused Warrior.
“It was only a irritating night time throughout,” Curry said. “But I am going to shoot the ball higher and play higher protection. Other guys will become involved and we’ll be in nice form. There’s not panic. No houses-on-fire mentality in our locker room. We’re in fairly fine condition proper now.”