The Houston Rockets entered Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as a slight favorite over the Golden State Warriors (for the game, not the series) with the expectation that the West’s top seed would at minimum hang around with the Warriors.
For much of the game, that was true. James Harden’s 41-point outburst kept Houston close, but ultimately the constant offensive onslaught from Golden State overwhelmed the Rockets, leading to a 119-106 final. While the score would seem to indicate the Rockets need to look at their defense ahead of Game 2 (and in some ways, they do, especially in staying tight on Klay Thompson on the perimeter), the focus of many in the Houston locker room was on the offense.
The Rockets led the league in isolation possessions during the regular season, relying on Harden and Chris Paul’s abilities as elite one-on-one players to attack defenses and score if left on an island or kick out to an open shooter if the double arrives. In Game 1, the Warriors seemed content to let Harden cook, but forced a fairly inefficient night from Chris Paul (8-of-17 shooting that was 5-of-14 before garbage time) and stayed out on Houston’s sharpshooters and at home on Clint Capela in the paint to not let any of them get hot.