HOUSTON — After the Golden State Warriors stole Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals from the Houston Rockets on Monday, guard Stephen Curry — whose usual effusive joy was tempered by spending much of the night guarding James Harden off the pick-and-roll — cautioned that just neutralizing home court advantage wasn’t enough.
“You don’t win the series in one game,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of work to do. You’ve got to come back and get a little greedy in Game 2.”
Getting greedy, for Curry, means not getting complacent. A road win in Game 1 was nice, but a win in Game 2 would put a boot on the Rockets’ collective neck. On a night where the Rockets got off to a 12-4 start, when Harden scored a game-high 41 points and Chris Paul scored 23, the Warriors silenced the Houston crowd midway through the fourth quarter. On a night where Kevin Durant had 37 and Klay Thompson 28, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and his players tellingly complained about the little things — a rather pedestrian 13 turnovers and missed layups — in a 13-point loss.
“They’re just going fast,” said center Clint Capela, who saw the Warriors score 18 fast-break points. “Every time we made a mistake they finish right away. This is a team who is an expert at whenever you make mistakes they just finish right away. One confusion, they make us pay, and tonight they really did it.”
The Warriors shot 52.2 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc — right in line with their season averages of 50.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three. The Rockets went right at Curry with Harden coming off pick-and-rolls and Harden got his foul shots — going 8-of-10 after averaging over eight attempts this postseason. They held Curry to just 18 points. Everything went according to plan for the Rockets, and the Warriors still won by 13.
Curry — coming off a sprained MCL — got a bit tired and came out with a minute left in the first quarter. He played just short of the entire third quarter. He’s still not at 100 percent, conditioning-wise, but he’s close.
“I think his best is still to come. That’s what’s encouraging,” head coach Steve Kerr said on Monday night. “I think he’s going to get even better as the series goes on, which is exciting for us. He’s still in the first stages of his comeback from his injury, so I think he’s just kind of measured and doing what he knows he has to do.”
Instead, Capela — who declared after the third regular season game between the two teams that the Rockets were flat-out better — doubled down after practice on Tuesday, and said he still thinks Houston is the better team, even after the loss. “We know what we did wrong,” he said.
“They’re going to look at the tape just like we did, and try to find different ways to attack us, and we’ve got to anticipate those things,” Kerr said after practice on Tuesday. “But, it’s not like, in the playoffs, you can just change who you are.”
The Warriors are a jump-shooting team with Curry at their heart, but on Monday, Curry went just 1-for-5 from three. Klay Thompson went 6-for-15 — largely wide open — from beyond the arc, Nick Young hit 3-of-5, and the fact that Golden State can get production outside of Curry is one of its virtues, but to win a game when Curry is having an off night, against a team which has openly proclaimed it was built to beat them? That can’t be a comforting feeling for the Rockets.
“Not going to downplay it, but we’re not satisfied,” Thompson said on Tuesday. “We have a golden opportunity tomorrow to take a good lead. You have to have a short memory in the playoffs, because the next game will come at you fast, and it might feel good to win one, but it’s a seven-game series for a reason.”
On Monday, Curry hit fewest threes he’s shot in the playoffs since he went 1-for-4 against the Jazz in Game 1 of last year’s conference finals. It was also the lowest three-point field goal percentage he’s had in a playoff game since Game 4 against the Rockets in the 2015-16 conference quarterfinals (1-for-7). Of his 80 career playoff games, Curry has failed to hit at least two threes in precisely seven of them.
In the games immediately after each of Curry’s last three 1-for games from beyond the arc, Curry has averaged 4.3 makes on 10.7 three-point shots.
“I was able to be sure with the ball, and I set up guys,” said Curry, who had eight assists. ” … But I have to be a threat out there at all times, and demand some attention.”
Game 2 tips off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday on TNT.