Keys to Rockets-Warriors Game 2 of Western Conference Finals

By Randy McIlvoy - Sports Director
Getty Images

James Harden of the Houston Rockets defends Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors in the first half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas.

HOUSTON - Is Game 2 a must-win for the Rockets?

The Rockets have work to do starting Wednesday night with Game 2 at Toyota Center. Game 1 went to Golden State 119-106 as Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combined for 69 points and 11 three-pointers.

Houston hopes the adjustments they have made over the past 48 hours will be enough to even the series 1-1 before it shifts to the Bay Area on Sunday for Game 3, then Tuesday for Game 4.

So how can the Rockets get the equalizer tonight? Here are the keys to Game 2:

1. James Harden

Harden carried the Rockets in Monday's Game 1, hitting five three-pointers. He was 14-24 from the floor and got to the free throw line only 10 times. Harden had 24 points in the first half and finished with 41. As head coach Mike D'Antoni put it, "He just needs to go out and score 55 next time."

2. Warriors Dynamic Duo

The combination of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lit up the Rockets, taking 60 of their 80 shots on a night Golden State shot 52 percent from the field.  The three sharpshooters also combined for 80 of their 119 points.  They attacked all night and scored with ease on Harden as the primary defender part of the night. Harden gave up 37 points defensively.

3. Ariza, Tucker and Gordon

The numbers for Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon speak for themselves, going a combined 3-11 shooting in the Game 1 loss. They have to improve and become factors. Ariza got in a hole with his fifth foul not long after the third quarter began. They are all tough defensively, but didn't show it in Game 1. Another night like that and the Rockets will be 0-2 going to Oakland. Gordon hit an early three then went ice cold before regaining his form. Gordon had 15 points on 6-13 shooting.

4. Turnovers, Rebounding

The Rockets won the rebounding battle 42-37, but lost the turnover head-to-head, giving it away 13 times while the Warriors coughed it up only nine times, which was below their playoff average. Every Rocket after the game pointed to the turnover area that they need to shore up for Game 2.

5. Relax and play Rockets basketball

Yes they are in an 0-1 hole, but the Rockets won 65 games in the regular season for a reason. They can make corrections and get a winning result in Game 2. The Rockets pick-and-roll was contained nicely by the Warriors, so Clint Capela didn't hurt them much. The Rockets missed too many wide open shots and easy shots near the basket that normally fall. Odds say that will change but remember doing it against the defending champs.

"This is a resilient Rockets team and will respond; we'll be ready," Durant said after Game 1. "We can improve as well so we'll be ready."

Now it's time for the Rockets to go out, feed off the crowd and clean things up. Get a win, even the series and then see how it plays out in the Bay Area. Tip off is 8 p.m. at Toyota Center. 

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