HOUSTON – Only two days passed, and the Warriors and Rockets became entirely different teams.
The Warriors’ offensive depth suddenly shrank. The Rockets suddenly changed from an iso-heavy team to one that also moved the ball. And the Warriors suddenly showed their regular-season sloppiness instead of postseason intensity.
Mix those trends together, and it should not be surprising the Warriors finished with a 127-105 Game 2 loss against the Rockets on Wednesday to tie the Western Conference Finals at 1-1. The development sharply contrasted the Warriors’ dominating Game 1 win over Houston on Monday.
Instead of showing strength in numbers, the Warriors lacked offensive depth. Warriors forward Kevin Durant nearly did everything with 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting, 3-of-7 from 3-point range and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. But Warriors guard Stephen Curry lacked perimeter shooting (16 points on 7-of-19 shooting and 1-of-8 from 3-point range. Warriors forward Draymond Green lacked intensity (six points, six rebounds, six assists). And Warriors guard Klay Thompson (eight points on 3-of-11 shooting) no longer received as many open looks as he did in Game 1 (28 points).
Instead of the Rockets overly relying on James Harden in isolation, Houston leaned on him with swift ball movement. Harden posted 27 points on only 9-of-24 shooting, a far cry from the 41 points he posted in Game 1. Unlike in Game 1, though, Harden had help from Eric Gordon (27 points), PJ Tucker (22) Trevor Ariza (19) and Chris Paul (16). This happened two days after Tucker had only one point in Game 1 and when Ariza recorded as many fouls (five) as points (eight).
The Warriors’ carelessness emerged with 15 turnovers, including seven in the first quarter, after posting only nine in Game 1. The Warriors ‘ ball movement suddenly evaporated en route to a 9-of-30 clip from 3-point range.
The Warriors still have home-court advantage entering Game 3 on Sunday at Oracle Arena. Yet, they squandered an opportunity to take command of a series in their first Game 2 loss since posting 10 consecutive Game 2 wins since the 2015 NBA Finals.