Warriors hold off Rockets in angst-filled Game 1 | News Coverage from USA

Warriors hold off Rockets in angst-filled Game 1

Sometimes sequels fail to live up to the hype and expectation, and in theory, it’s possible that this playoff rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets could still turn into a letdown.

It sure doesn’t feel like it in Game 1.

The Warriors eked out a 104-100 victory in an Oracle Arena nail-biter that had every bit of the drama, tension and angst that has made this the juiciest possible matchup of any in this postseason.

Never mind the fact that it is in the Western Conference semifinals, and that whichever team wins will still need to best two more opponents to hoist a championship, this is a heavyweight slug-fest that deserves a title belt of its own.

The Rockets gave the Warriors all they could handle and more, holding firm early when Golden State threatened to open a sizable gap and scrapping for every possession down the stretch as things got testy.

Stephen Curry was having a strange kind of afternoon, the kind of off-day that has been popping up unusually frequently for him lately. But when it mattered, despite having scored just 14 points until that moment, the Warriors put their faith in the face of the franchise, and were rewarded by seeing Curry drain a 3-pointer that seemed to ice it.

Not so fast. Kevin Durant, the Warriors’ leading scorer with 35 points and perhaps the most in-form player in basketball right now, inexplicably lost the ball to give Houston a final chance with time ticking away.

James Harden missed a 3 that would have tied it up, then Chris Paul earned himself a second technical foul and an ejection after remonstrating with and contacting an official as he protested a foul that wasn’t called.

Harden scored 35 and Eric Gordon 27 for the Rockets, who must now regroup ahead of Game 2 on Tuesday, before a lengthy break in advance of the series switching to Texas. Perhaps it goes to seven games again, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it is going to be a scrap.

It wasn’t a beautiful game, but it was wonderfully compelling, with tenacious defense on both sides and uncompromising physicality. The Warriors believe they are destined for a third consecutive championship; the Rockets think they have the right tools and motivation to take them down.

If they had shot better from long range, the visitors might have gotten the win here. Houston started off 1-of-14 from downtown and ended up shooting 29.8% on 3-pointers. The hosts focused more on an inside game, with Durant especially appearing unstoppable from mid-range.

As the series progresses there are surely more twists in store, and plenty of unpredictability. One thing is certain: both teams will put up one heck of a fight.

Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno.


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