Just three wins away from a berth in the NBA Finals heading into Thursday, the Golden State Warriors looked like they were going to coast to a second straight win over the Houston Rockets in their Western Conference Finals series. But after blowing a 17 point second quarter lead, the Rockets made things interesting. And while the Warriors prevailed in the end by a final score of 99-98, fans and basketball betting experts alike will have some questions for the Warriors going forward in this series.
Golden State earned their 17 point second quarter lead through their leader and NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, who put up 15 points in the first quarter alone to set the tone for his team. His great shooting, combined with some poor defensive rotations from the Rockets (Pablo Prigioni especially) left the Rockets in a bad spot. However, Houston turned things around quickly, closing out the second quarter on a run that left the game tied at 55 heading into halftime.
In the second half, the game further turned into a duel between MVP candidates James Harden and Stephen Curry, with both players hitting big shot after big shot to keep their teams in position to make a late run. But, thanks in large part to some great defense from center Andrew Bogut, it was the Warriors who held the lead late.
With just minutes remaining, though, Golden State made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes, including turnovers and missed free throws which allowed the Rockets to fight themselves back to within one point with less than one minute to go. Even though Golden State were heavy favorites, tipsters know better than to count the Rockets out given their recent form.
On their final possession of the game, the Warriors weren’t able to score on a Harrison Barnes layup attempt, giving the Rockets a chance to score and win with eight seconds to play. After an outlet pass to Harden, who scored 38 points for the game, the Warriors’ defense was able to get back and prevent Houston from even getting a final shot off, sealing their second victory of the series.
Despite the win, though, some questions will surely be asked of the Warriors, who let multiple large leads slip away over the course of this game. Head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged at halftime that his team was trying to turn the game into a show instead of doing what gave them their 17 point lead, which makes one wonder just how focused the Warriors will be over the course of their games against a tougher opponent in the NBA Finals. One also has to question how poised Kerr is as the man in charge, as he failed to call a timeout in a key situation, instead allowing his squad to commit a turnover in the backcourt to keep the Rockets’ hopes alive.
Questions or not, though, the Warriors find themselves up 2-0 in this series, and top basketball tipsters will have them tabbed as the clear favorites to advance to the NBA Finals. Game Three of the series is on Saturday in Houston, and the Rockets absolutely cannot afford to lose that game.
BY: JASON M.SANIN