James Harden, Eric Gordon aware series vs. Warriors will be a ‘learning task’
The Houston Rockets are facing a crude reality coming into Game 2 of their Western Conference Finals series against the Golden State Warriors — their success will be predicated on their ability to adapt to circumstances.
Clutch City had worked incredibly hard during the regular season, mustering a franchise-best 65 wins and the top overall seed in the league, only to walk into the Toyota Center and suffer a vital loss to lose it all.
The Rockets had a simple game plan, get James Harden the ball against the weakest defensive matchup possible — in most cases, he’d go against a less physical Stephen Curry or lure a big man like Kevon Looney, who isn’t the most nimble on his feet.
The strategy worked, as Harden led the game with 41 points, but only to a certain extent, as the well ran dry over the second half of the game, with the Warriors picking apart the Rockets with a taste of their very own medicine, as well as some recipes of their own arsenal.
“They did a really good job,” Harden said. “If you miss the shots or if you turn the basketball over, they’re out. They’re getting dunks, they’re getting 3s. I’m not sure how many transition points they had, but it was too many. That’s what they thrive on. So, we’ve got to do a better job of not turning the basketball over, taking better shots and getting back and matching up.
“There were a couple times where we didn’t guard anybody, and they got a dunk or an open 3. That can’t happen.”
Coach Mike D’Antoni, who responded to a question of concern for the Rockets losing in a night Harden had 41 points, answered that he’d make him get 55 the next night, but even that answer could prove foolish against a team that can throw so many different defensive looks at this Rockets team.
The Rockets continue to rack up isolation stats and the Warriors have been happy to take their best punch, in a Cassius-Clay-like manner, knowing their Sonny Liston will fatigue over time, as he has during previous playoff series.
“Now, obviously, we lost,” D’Antoni said. “Now the next most important game is Wednesday. See if we have a short memory. We can’t think about this game other than make adjustments. But we’ve got to come out and win the game on Wednesday, and we’ll see what happens. We can win here, we can win there. It’s nice to have home court. We don’t have it. We’ve got to go get it.”