No one expected Houston to seriously push the Warriors in the first round, but it was hard to anticipate how lopsided the series would turn out to be. After taking Game 1 in a blowout, Golden State controlled Game 2 even without Stephen Curry available and won comfortably to get a commanding 2-0 lead. A sweep seems like the most likely outcome for this first-round matchup but the Rockets will have their next opportunity to avoid it on Thursday at home.
There's really no magic recipe to beat the Warriors, but limiting easy buckets and second chance opportunities is a must to even have a chance. Their offense is deadly even when defended perfectly, so mistakes must be kept to a minimum and effort can't wane in order to stay close. The Rockets couldn't do that in Game 2 and paid, even on a night in which Curry sat due to an ankle injury. Houston allowed Golden State to have an edge on second chance and fast break points, which powered an interior attack that made up for the absence of the league's MVP.
It really wasn't a surprise to see the Rockets fail to execute and play without energy on both ends. It has been a problem throughout the season. Thursday brings their biggest game of the year, however, so they should at least come out ready to play with desperation, for better or for worse. They need the win not only to avoid getting close to elimination but also to leave a better image on fans' minds after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
Of course, it likely won't matter what Houston does. This Warriors team is too talented to be contained by such a porous defense even if Curry sits. Golden State knows the Rockets' supporting cast is not dangerous, so they can even afford to allow James Harden to go off.
It would really take one of their best games of the season for Houston to get on the board in this series. If they have one great performance in them, this is the time to deliver it.
How to watch Warriors vs. Rockets Game 3
Place: Toyota Center
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Streaming: Watch TNT
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Stifling Defense: Kawhi Leonard frustrates the heck out of Lance Stephenson
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