'Total team effort' was key: Harden

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (right), who had 38 points for the losing side, finds himself closely guarded by Houston Rockets centre Clint Capela (15) and forward Trevor Ariza during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Houston.
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (right), who had 38 points for the losing side, finds himself closely guarded by Houston Rockets centre Clint Capela (15) and forward Trevor Ariza during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Houston.PHOTO: REUTERS

MVP nominee gets help from supporting cast as Rockets beat Warriors 127-105 to level series

HOUSTON • If their road win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was a case of the Golden State Warriors being "greedy", then Game 2 on Wednesday must have been an experiment in generosity.

The game was largely defined by National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Golden State's 15 turnovers, mental mistakes and missed shots after the Rockets levelled the series 1-1 with a 127-105 victory over the visitors.

The Warriors were thoroughly outplayed by a motivated Rockets team for the game's first 24 minutes and went into half-time with a 14-point deficit.

Despite briefly fighting back in the third quarter, the Warriors suffered their worst defeat of the play-offs.

The Rockets were paced by 27 points from both Most Valuable Player (MVP) finalist James Harden and guard Eric Gordon, with three other team-mates scoring in double figures.

Harden, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans are on a three-man list, which was revealed on Wednesday, for the NBA's MVP honours. The recipient will be named on June 25.

The guard again showed at the Toyota Centre why he is considered the front-runner to succeed Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook for the accolade but, this time round, he had help from his supporting cast, unlike his singular 41-point effort in the opener.

"Total team effort," Harden told TNT in his post-game interview. "We played harder and smarter than Game 1. That was the only difference."

TURNING POINT

You have one of the best offences of all time, at least, with Golden State, and we're trying to prove we're up there with them. We just did it better and longer.

MIKE D'ANTONI, coach of the Houston Rockets.

Houston utilised their multitude of offensive weapons and also eliminated the defensive mistakes that proved fatal in the opener, limiting the Warriors, who were led by 38 points from Kevin Durant, to nine-of-30 shooting from three-point range while surrendering only seven points in transition.

And complicating matters for the Warriors was a "frustrating night" for Stephen Curry, who still does not appear to be 100 per cent fit following his strained ligament injury. Despite finishing with 16 points, he was only one-for-eight from beyond the arc.

At his post-game news conference, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said too much would most likely be made of a change in Houston's attack, which he felt was an improvement of execution rather than an alteration of their game plan.

"I don't want to be cantankerous," D'Antoni opined. "You have one of the best offences of all time, at least, with Golden State, and we're trying to prove we're up there with them.

"We are who we are. We just did it better and longer."

The series will now shift to Oakland for Game 3 on Sunday (Monday morning, Singapore time) and, while the Houston Rockets are aware of the task ahead of them, they will be no let-up in their intensity on the road.

"We know how tough it is to win (at Golden State) but we're ready for it," said Harden.

Rockets guard Chris Paul, who contributed 16 points, added: "For us right now the most important game is Game 3. That's a tough environment to play in there. But we are who we are and we'll be ready."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline ''Total team effort' was key: Harden'. Print Edition | Subscribe