Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors: What they got right in Game 2

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors drives against James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the third quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors drives against James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the third quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets took on the Golden State Warriors for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.  They looked to come out ready to lock and load to avenge their loss Monday.  What happened?  Let’s take a look and delve in.

The Houston Rockets absolutely weren’t having it, being the run of the litter, the butt of everybody’s jokes, they wanted to prove that they belonged in this series.  It’s incredible how the national media wanted to trash this team and send off into oblivion after just ONE GAME.

Rest assured, the Houston Rockets got the message and they went to work early, ensuring they had the momentum as well as the upper hand in the early goings.  This was the team I had hoped to see in Game 1 but it’s all about looking back at went wrong and making the necessary adjustments.

I wouldn’t expect the Houston Rockets to change who they are because what they’ve been doing has led to their historical and successful season.  But I give one caveat.  There’s nothing wrong with making tweaks and so they did.  They were playing in-sync, they were playing hard-nosed defense, the ball was moving and the pace remained high.  These are the components of the formula to the Houston Rockets success.

Yes, I’m aware that the isolation plays do account for nearly two points per play when both James Harden and Chris Paul are used but there’s is nothing wrong with spreading the wealth around and completely annihilating them to no end.  That’s what was representative of the Houston Rockets in the first half.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, take a look at Houston Sports Talk, my favorite podcast as Robert and R.G. give some honest dish:

As opposed to Game 1, things remained tight early in the 1st quarter — tied 18-18 with 4:17 left — but went on a 8-0 run to lead 26-18 with 45 seconds left.

But it was the 2nd quarter when the Houston Rockets really got going and blew the door open.  Who was the mystery man that help turn the tide?  Harden?  CP3?  Capela?  No.  It was P.J. Tucker, a man that had been looking to combat his one point in 35 minutes performance back Game 1.

Tucker opened up the quarter with the first three of his night and would have back-to-back threes in possessions with about six minutes left.  But it wasn’t only Tucker.  Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and the indisputable MVP in the Beard worked together to have the team take their biggest lead of the game at that point — 19 points — when they led by 19 points, 64-45 with 59 seconds left in the hhalf.

It was incredible to watch — their defense stepped up to whole new level and they were forcing plenty turnovers from Draymond Green as well as Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala.  It was a beauty of a quarter to see and a specimen of what this team should look like when their compass is set to championship mode.

The 2nd half was similar to a sequel to the first, with the team stepping up their game a bit more after leading 64-50.

The Warriors would get within 10, with the score being 74-64 with 7:42 left in the third but the Rockets got to work not with the three-pointer but driving into the lane and getting their buckets the hard way.  It completely threw the Warriors off their game as they expected for this team to be camped out behind-the-arc.

Paul, Tucker and even Trevor Ariza earned their buckets one-by-one, with CP3 getting a tremendous amount of his buckets by drawing an immense amount of fouls.  The next thing you know, they were staring right in the bowels of a 19-point lead with 35 seconds left in the third.

Rockets 95, Warriors 76

The 4th quarter was when they got back to three-pointer as their finishing move.  It all started with Eric Gordon, who had an excellent performance tonight off the bench and looked like reigning 6th Man of the Year winner.  He hit from up top, he hit from the corner and there was one that he had that ranged the distance of the Grand Parkway (State Highway 99), Houston’s most outer loop of the suburbs.

The Warriors couldn’t take anymore and this led to Green frustratingly pushing a driving Ariza out

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of bounds late in the game with 5:18 left.  I thought it was flagrant-level call but the refs deciding to rule it a common foul.  Ariza converted that penalty, putting the team back up by 18 — 119-91 — at that moment.

Shortly thereafter, Steve Kerr called off the dogs and cleared the bench to which both coasted to inevitable 127-105 win that the Rockets earned tonight.

Harden and Gordon led the Rockets with 27 points a piece with Harden/Capela chipping in 10 rebounds each.  Ariza and Paul each contributed six assists.

Who had the team’s only blocked shot tonight?  That was Gordon who had as best of game as one could have in 32 minutes off the bench.

Outside of Kevin Durant‘s 38 points, there was little the team could conjure up offensively with the exception of the quiet 16 points that Curry put up.

This team’s defense was damn near impeccable tonight and they’ll be impossible to stop if they can keep things up.  I talked about this the other night in regard to the things that they needed to do to win Game 2 and they checked all of my boxes.  You’re free to take a look at it here if you like.  It was all about the ball movement, along with rapid fire and keeping the pace up as high as possible.

The team also seemed to reduce the heavy use of isolation plays and it benefited them plenty.

Although he’ll tell you otherwise, Mike D’Antoni tweaked their game plan but didn’t make drastic changes as I would expect.  That’s fine with me — they needed this wake up call and I think they’re right back on track.  Of course it won’t be easy as they head up to the Oracle for the weekend to continue the series but I think this team has found themselves and they possess a spirit that will not die.  NOT NOW, NOT EVER.

Next: Breaking down the Rockets ELITE defensive tactics

The Rockets will take on the Warriors in Game 3 this Sunday at Oracle Arena.  Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT.  The game will be televised on TNT and broadcast on NewsRadio 740 AM (KTRH)/La Ranchera 850 AM in Spanish.