OAKLAND – Rockets forward Josh Smith said that no one in his team’s dressing room had his head down after Golden State’s 110-106 win in Game 1 on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
According to Smith, each game in the Western Conference Finals series is going to hotly contested.
“This is a competitive series and it’s going to be a competitive series all series long,” he said.
If Game 1 is any indication, Smith is correct. Still, in order for Houston to come out on top, it will have to somehow prevent the types of runs that the Warriors went on in the second quarter, and again in the fourth.
The Rockets saw a 16-point lead evaporate when Golden State went on a 25-6 run into halftime, including a 20-foot Stephen Curry jump shot at the buzzer. Houston looked especially rattled during the stretch, as the sellout crowd got louder and louder with each Rockets miss and Warriors make.
“We got a little stagnant when we got up 16, and we should have kept pushing the pace and playing our style,” Corey Brewer said.
Coach Kevin McHale was unable to stop the clock as he watched the sizable lead dwindle and eventually vanish.
“We had run out of timeouts. I guess I used them all,” McHale said. “We had some turnovers, we had some mistakes, they were going to make some runs but we were able to battle back.”
As McHale indicated, the Rockets did show some resiliency thanks mostly to a standout performance by James Harden, and found themselves tied at 97-97 with 5:28 remaining in regulation.
Instead of bursting through, though, it was the Warriors who reeled off 11 straight points. Although Houston made it a bit interesting late, that late run was essentially the difference in the game.
“I think we played well for the most part of the game,” Trevor Ariza said. “If we want to win games, we can’t let them to get going like that.”
Harden finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, and was one assist away from a triple-double. He played just as well, if not better than MVP Curry on the other side of the ball, but both stars came as advertised as Curry deposited a game-high 34 points.
The Rockets will need those same types of efforts from Harden, especially with center Dwight Howard’s status uncertain for the rest of the series with a bruised left knee he suffered in the first quarter.
Harden was able to take advantage of a smaller Warriors lineup that Steve Kerr utilized, as centers Andrew Bogut and David Lee both had off nights.
“The rim was basically wide open, so I just tried to attack and see opportunities and just be aggressive,” Harden said.
McHale said: “He got rolling a little bit there. … He’s going to have to be a playmaker.”
Houston has one more chance to gain home court advantage on Thursday in Game 2.
“We just have to move on to the next game,” Ariza said. “Give a little bit more effort. We’ve got to not turn the ball over as much, and be able to withstand their runs.
“We know they’re going to make runs. They’re a really good team at home, and a really good team period. We stick with it, we’ll be fine.”