Even without Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors are going to be fine against the Houston Rockets. Behind 34 points from Klay Thompson, the Warriors defeated the Rockets 115-106 to take a 2-0 series lead in their first-round playoff series on Monday night.
Curry sat out the game after cutting his warmup short. He tweaked his right ankle during the first half of the Warriors' Game 1 victory, but once again the Rockets failed to take advantage of a Warriors team missing their biggest star.
Thompson was spectacular in the first half, scoring 20 points as the Warriors led 66-58 at the half. The Rockets had no answer for the Warriors offense, but Houston wasn't exactly folding. They went on a 9-1 run after falling behind by 12 in the third quarter and only trailed 86-79 at the end of three. Thompson and the Warriors poured it on in the fourth and pulled away to pick up the win and take a 2-0 series lead.
Here are three things we learned:
Klay Thompson isn't a bad Stephen Curry replacement
Thompson lit up the Rockets for 20 in the first half. It didn't quite match the 24 Curry put up in Game 1, but Thompson proved how dynamic he can be. He struggled to find a rhythm at the start of the third, but did manage to continue driving his way into the lane. He made three 3-pointers, but he was most effective with his off-ball movement and drives to the hoop against a Houston defense that had no interest in helping out in the lane.
Thompson is no Curry, there's no doubt about that. He is, however, one of the most skilled players in the league on both sides of the ball. The Warriors are extremely fortunate that, when the best guard in the NBA is unavailable, they have Thompson to take the reins.
The Warriors continue to shut down James Harden
Harden didn't shoot a single free throw in Game 1. He didn't make a three-point shot until the final minute of the third quarter in Game 2. Harden did put up 28 points and had 11 assists, but he shot only 7-of-19 from the field and 1-of-8 from deep and turned the ball over five times. The Warriors defense wasn't as crisp as it was in the first game of the series, but Harden cannot get over the hump against Golden State.
The Rockets are a mess
If there was ever a time to salvage a season, beating a team without the reigning MVP and making the series against the 73-win Warriors competitive was the time to do it. Instead, the Rockets gave up 66 points in the first half -- when Curry was on the court for Game 1, they only gave up 60 -- and had no answer for really anyone on the Warriors roster. Not that anything else should have been expected. The Rockets have been a mess all season. They were disjointed on both sides of the court and had no sense of urgency. The Rockets have been given plenty of opportunities to turn this season around, and at this point its safe to say they never will.
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