Houston have a Durant problem as Warriors lead in West

HOUSTON • The Houston Rockets acknowledged that they can do little to contain Kevin Durant. But Houston coach Mike D'Antoni expects the league's top seeds to tighten up their perimeter defence and take care of the basketball if they are to reach the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.

Durant had 37 points in the Golden State Warriors' 119-106 victory over Houston at Toyota Centre in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday.

The win meant the defending champions, seeking their third NBA crown in four seasons, snatched home-court advantage.

Houston are looking to progress to their first NBA Finals since 1995.

In their way is Durant, who scored his 52nd 30-plus point play-off game.

"He's (Durant) one of the best scorers ever," D'Antoni said.

"I thought he was extremely good. But we can withstand that. We can't withstand turning the ball over and giving up so many wide-open threes.

"We can do a little better job against them mentally. They are champions for a reason. If we want to beat them, we have to be sharp."

Houston had seven turnovers while the Warriors made 13 of their 33 attempts from behind the arc.

Durant's coach is just glad the forward is not on the opposing roster.

"Obviously, Kevin is the ultimate luxury because a play can break down and you just throw him the ball. He can get you a bucket as well as anybody on Earth. This is why anybody would want him on their team," said Steve Kerr.

The Warriors had to survive the early emotional salvo from the Rockets, with Houston dashing to a 12-4 lead behind James Harden, who paced them with 41 points.

Golden State took control in the third quarter, outscoring Houston 31-24. Their second-half surge was fuelled by Durant, while Klay Thompson also played off him to scorch the Rockets from the perimeter, with 18 of his 28 points coming from three-pointers.

The Rockets have no intention to turn off the afterburners ahead of Game 2 in Houston today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time), but they will tweak their fast-paced tempo to deal with Durant and Co.

"We've got to do a better job of not turning the basketball over, taking better shots and getting back and matching up," said Harden.

D'Antoni added: "We'll come out and attack them (on) Wednesday."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Houston have a Durant problem as Warriors lead in West'. Print Edition | Subscribe