Rockets cruise to level series

Source:AFP Published: 2018/5/17 20:13:40

Intensity key to 22-point win

James Harden (in black jersey) of the Houston Rockets goes for a rebound against Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson on Wednesday in Houston, Texas. Photo: VCG

The Houston Rockets ramped up the intensity on Wednesday, powering past NBA champions Golden State 127-105 to level their Western Conference finals series at one game apiece.

Houston's Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden scored 27 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Eric Gordon added 27 off the bench as five players scored in double figures for a Rockets team chastened by a 119-106 series-­opening defeat on their home floor on Monday.

"Total team effort," Harden said. "We played harder and smarter than Game 1. That was the only difference."

The Rockets signaled their intentions early. Their seven fast-break points in the opening quarter more than doubled the three they mustered in all of Game 1.

Houston connected on three of 10 from the three-point range in the first period while the Warriors were zero for seven and coughed up seven turnovers.

Up 26-21 after one quarter, the Rockets wouldn't trail from there.

They led 64-50 by halftime, with four players already in double figures as they stepped up the pace and tightened the defensive screws.

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said there was no major change in strategy - just more intensity and better execution from a Houston team that led the league with 65 regular-season wins.

"I don't want to be cantankerous," D'Antoni said. "You have one of the best offenses of all time, at least, with Golden State and we're trying to prove we're up there with them. You're not going to come in and change the way you play.

"We are who we are. We just did it better and longer."

Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 38 points, but Stephen ­Curry was the only other Golden State ­player in double figures with 16.

Klay Thompson scored just eight points, Draymond Green six and Andre Iguodala five.

Curry connected on seven of 19 shots from the floor, making just one of eight three-point attempts in what he called a "frustrating night."

Overall the Warriors were just nine of 30 from the three-point range.

They finished the game with 15 turnovers - 11 of those coming before halftime, by when most of the damage was done.

P.J. Tucker, who scored just one point in Game 1, scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half for Houston. Trevor Ariza, another who struggled in Game 1, added 19 points and Chris Paul scored 16 for the Rockets.

"Defensively we were more aggressive. We were smarter," said Harden, whose Rockets travel to Oakland for Game 3 on Sunday with renewed confidence.

The winners of the series will face either the Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference finals 2-0.


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