Even without Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors were able to emerge victorious over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of their first-round series, 115-106. As the series moves to Houston with the Rockets desperately trying to avoid the 0-3 hole that no team has ever successfully overcome, they do so with uncertainty surrounding Stephen Curry and his ability to play effectively.
Predictably, without Curry, Klay Thompson was relied upon to shoulder the scoring burden in Game 2—something he did admirably to the tune of 34 points. Shaun Livingston replaced Curry in the starting lineup and contributed a much needed 16 points and six assists while Andre Iguodala gave the team 18 points off of the bench. Even without Curry, so long as Thompson and Iguodala can give the Warriors an efficient 40 combined points, they should have enough to outlast the Rockets in a seven-game series. But how long it takes for the Warriors to emerge victorious will probably depend on Curry’s health.
Heading back to Houston for Game 3, it is safe to assume that the Rockets’ role players will fare better in front of their home crowd. Through the first two games of the series, the Warriors have done an admirable job of stopping everyone not named James Harden from scoring effectively, and even he has been woefully inefficient from the field thus far. Harden has managed to shoot just 14-38 from the field through two games. Because that has mostly been due to the defensive screens and effective pick-and-roll defense the Warriors have employed, it is likely that Harden will have to work very hard for buckets in Game 3 and Game 4.
But whether the Rockets are able to win a game or two in this series may be determined Dwight Howard and whether he can be the best big man on the floor. Through the first two games of the series, he has attempted only 17 shots and has been outplayed by Andrew Bogut on both ends of the floor. Michael Beasley, Clint Capela and Jason Terry are all capable of turning in a double-figure scoring night off the bench, and one of those three are likely to break loose before their home crowd in a do or die Game 3.
If Curry were at or near 100 percent, we would be inclined to take the Warriors in Game 3. But since that isn’t the case, we will give the Rockets the benefit of the doubt and assume that Harden will get enough help from his supporting cast to help his team pull off a win they need to stay alive in the series.
All season long, the Rockets have underachieved, but once the playoffs begin, it’s a brand new season. After finding a way to remain competitive over the course of Game 2, the Rockets will likely approach Game 3 having the mindset that the Warriors simply defended their home court and that they must now do the same as the series moves to Houston. And if there is one thing we learned about this Rockets team last season, it’s that they won’t quit.
Prediction: With Curry not at or near 100 percent, the Rockets find a way to slow Klay Thompson down and steal Game 3.
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