The Houston Rockets’ four-point loss to the Golden State Warriors was a bitter pill to swallow. As the 104-100 final score entails, it came down to the wire, with neither team ever really gaining full control over the other. It was sloppy, it was chippy, and it was hard to watch, but we still have at at least three more games of this to go.
Here are some major takeaways from Game 1:
It’s not safe to land here
Here’s a quick concession on the officiating in Game 1: it was bad, PERIOD. On both sides, there were blown calls, missed calls, poor calls, makeup calls, etc. This game was dictated by the refereeing and lack thereof. Let’s get that point out of the way, first. There’s not much you can do about bad officiating. You hope that you can clean it up after the halftime break, but, more often than not, once bad reffing starts, it can’t stop.
That’s still doesn’t excuse what was being allowed on James Harden’s three-point attempts.
All 3 Klay closeouts on Harden pic.twitter.com/x6iGuPECqu— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) April 28, 2019
There’s no point in going into details about what actually happened, as you already know if you spent two seconds on social media, but we can talk about what it means. If you miss the first call on this type of foul, it’s more than OK to call it the second time. It’s not one of those things where you go, “well, I didn’t call it the first time, so I can’t call it now because I don’t want to look bad.” No, ultimately it looks worse.
That’s because this is such an egregious and dangerous foul to not allow the offensive player to land after a jumpshot. This was something that NBA promised to crack down after the injury to Kawhi Leonard in the 2017 playoffs, and it’s not happening for Harden here. This is a much deeper and longer conversation about “the boy who cried wolf,” but we’re not talking about a slap on the wrist on the way in for a layup.
Even former NBA referee, Steve Javie, agrees that these are fouls.
I don’t care what Warriors fans (3/4 are bandwagons) say, these are clearly fouls, as Steve Javie says. pic.twitter.com/CFCw42nF3g— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) April 29, 2019
Alright, let’s get back to talking basketball.
A no-show from Clint
What’s going on with Clint Capela in these playoffs is interesting, to say the least. Capela was arguably the most consistent and second-best player on the Rockets when he was healthy. Yes, a lot of his success depends on people feeding him the ball, but he’s been stellar when he does get the ball.
That’s not the case in the postseason, unfortunately.
After his come-of-age performance in the playoffs last year, it’s hard to believe what’s going on this year. In a little under 31 minutes a game, Capela is averaging 9.7 points on only 4 field goals made a game, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Granted, he was sick for a good part of the first round series, but he was completely removed from Game 1 against the Warriors.
In only 26 minutes of play, Capela scored four points on one field goal, a lob from Harden, and had two rebounds.
With no real threat at the center position, this is a series that Capela should be dominating and can dominate very easily. This game, and these playoffs, are not indicative of Capela’s talent and impact on this team. There’s no real reason to assume that his struggles will continue, but if they do, there’s no way Houston can win this without him.
No one picks up the slack
While the missed calls and officiating was tumultuous in the game, it still doesn’t overshadow the fact that, if the Rockets had one player step up, they could have easily won this game.
Not even taking Capela into account (even though this game looks much different if he just shows up a little bit), the Rockets had only 17 points from their bench. On top of that, 8 of those points came from Nene, who played only 13 minutes. Danuel House Jr., Iman Shumpert, and Gerald Green all made only one three-pointer each for the game, and that was it. Even though P.J. Tucker, who has the unfortunate task of guarding Kevin Durant, was spectacular on defense, he went 0-4 from the field and has 0 points. Harden, Chris Paul, and Eric Gordon scored 79 of the Rockets’ 100 points.
On the other side, 70-year-old Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green scored a combined 28 points on 13-16 shooting. They stepped up for their team, and it truly made the outcome for the Warriors possible.
Do they bleed?
From the tip to the dagger three Stephen Curry made and over-celebrated after Durant had put in most of the work up until that point, the Rockets had a chance to take over and win the game.
They forced Golden State into some tough shots and allowed them to make only 7 threes on 22 attempts. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had only a combined 31 points on 10-of-25 shooting. They also forced Kevin Durant to take over and beat them in the fourth, and even he shot only 11-of-25 from the field for the game. Combine all that with the 20 total turnovers, and nothing came easy for the Warriors.
That’s a good sign for Houston. The Rockets played poorly, and so did Golden State, and even the Warriors couldn’t get themselves out of their rut, so maybe they’re in the same tier after all.
That’s looking at the positive side. On the negative side, this might have been one of the easiest opportunities Houston could have to take a game in Golden State, and they didn’t come up with the win. It’s hard to imagine that’ll happen again. On an even MORE positive side, going back to their series with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors further exhibited a pattern of weakness and lack of the type dominance they’ve had in years passed.
Maybe it really isn’t a fluke, and maybe they’re truly not that good. If the Rockets get another opportunity like they did in this game, they’d better not squander it. Time to throw some dirt on that scratch, Game 2 is Tuesday.