The reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors emerged victoriously, but the Houston Rockets gave them everything they had in Game 1 before falling 104-100. Both sides couldn't be separated all game long and went right down to the wire as the crowd sat on the edge of their seats up to the final buzzer.
Kevin Durant continued his stellar recent run by leading the Warriors once again with an efficient 35 points on 11-25 shooting from the field while James Harden threw everything he had at the Warriors as he ended with 35 points and Eric Gordon pitched in 27 points for the Rockets.
For more on the Warriors' Game 1 victory, we have you covered with takeaways below...
KD puts his stamp on Game 1
"I'm Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y'all know who I am."
The reigning back-to-back Finals MVP exuded a high level of confidence with the above statement during the Warriors first-round series with the Clippers and has been reminding everyone of exactly who he is ever since.
After dropping a postseason career-high 50 points in Golden State's closeout Game 6 victory, Durant opened the second round with a team-high 35 points (on 11-for-25) shooting, five rebounds and three assists.
15 of Durant's 35 points came in the third quarter, and the team found a number of ways to run its offence through him all game, especially in the second half.
There were a number of times throughout Game 1 that Rockets defenders looked helpless as Durant hit shots that only he could.
A big key for Houston entering the series was the team's ability to defend Durant and, more importantly, who would be tasked with slowing him down. While Durant is virtually unstoppable, the Rockets will have to adjust in Game 2 in an attempt to make things more difficult for him.
Houston was able to force turnovers, stripping Durant on a number of occasions, but it must find more ways to limit him offensively. Should Durant continue this offensive tear he's on, Golden State's firepower could very well be too much to overcome.
Harden's shooting struggles continue
It's been a rough few games for the reigning MVP.
In Games 3 through 5 of the Rockets first-round series with the Jazz, James Harden averaged 26.0 points, but the efficiency wasn't exactly there. Harden attempted 21.7 field goals in the aforementioned three games and shot at a 32.3% clip; he maintained his offence by getting to the line nearly 10 times per game and shooting 86.3% from the charity stripe.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals followed those same trends.
In a losing effort, Harden finished with 35 points while shooting 9-for-27 (33.3%) from the field, but got to the line 14 times and hit all but one of his free throw attempts. Despite his shooting struggles, Harden made his presence felt with a team-high six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
It had been reported that Harden is nursing an injury on his shooting hand, which could be the reason for some of his offensive struggles. While they had a chance to win with Harden having a rough outing, the Rockets can't win this series without him finding his groove offensively.
Turnovers piling up
Golden State did almost everything right in the first half of Game 1. They defended incredibly well and had the Rockets shooting a horrible percentage, they continued to feed one another and were efficient from all over the floor. But they went into the halftime break with the game all tied up because of one thing.
13 turnovers in the first half kept the Rockets in the game as they managed to score 16 points off of the opportunities handed to them by the Warriors. Golden State tightened up their play in the second half but still finished with 20 for the game.
During the 2018 Playoffs, the Warriors never had more than 16 turnovers. Over their past seven games, they've surpassed that figure on three occasions. Fix up this area of their game and they could earn themselves an easier trip into their fifth straight Western Conference Finals.
Troubles from beyond the arc
The last time these two teams meet in the playoffs was Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in 2018. It was the Warriors who won the game, but it was the Rockets 3-point shooting that was the big talking point.
One of the deadliest shooting teams in the league missed 27 straight from deep and the yips seemed to follow them into Game 1 in the Bay Area. The first quarter saw the Rockets launch 14 attempts from beyond the arc with only one finding the bottom of the net. Yes, credit to the Warriors for closing out, but the Rockets were missing shots they've knocked down all season long.
A team as good at shooting the rock should never have a stretch where they go 1-for-41 from deep against a team.
Thankfully the Rockets steadied the ship in the second quarter by going 8-14 from deep. They ultimately finished Game 1 14-for-47 (29%) from three-point range, if the Rockets shot closer to their regular season percentage they could have comfortably taken the 1-0 series lead.
Knowing they only lost by four points in a tough road environment should fill them with plenty of hope they can bounce back on Wednesday to potentially knock off the reigning champs.