What happened: It was déjà vu all over again at Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Warriors won for the 45th time in 48 tries between the regular season and the playoffs. This one, a 99-98 thriller over the Houston Rockets that was jam-packed with basketball goodness from beginning to end, put Golden State up 2-0 in these Western Conference finals.
Just as the Rockets had built a 16-point lead early in Game 1 only to see it disappear, the Warriors led 49-32 midway through the second quarter before giving it all away. Houston finished the half on a 23-6 run to tie it 55-55 at halftime, with Harden scoring 12 points in the second quarter alone (on five of six shooting).
The Warriors led 77-75 entering the fourth quarter, but Golden State’s defense helped put it away down the stretch. They held Houston to just 43 points in the second half on 44.4% shooting. The final defensive stand sealed the deal, when Rockets star James Harden couldn’t cap his memorable outing. After Harrison Barnes missed a reverse layup with the Warriors up one and the clock winding down, Harden and the Rockets curiously didn’t use the timeout they still had. Harden, who was swarmed by the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the left wing, lost the ball and stayed slumped on the floor as the arena erupted.
The cook-off continues: After a regular season in which the Stephen Curry v. James Harden MVP race was so often front and center, this script is playing out perfectly for fans who enjoy a good superstar showdown. After a Game 1 in which Curry had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists and Harden had 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, they did it again: Curry had 33 points and six assists this time, while Harden had 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
What worked for Warriors: Big man Andrew Bogut was key, looking lively from the start on both ends after a Game 1 outing in which he was barely needed (16 minutes, zero points, four rebounds, zero blocks). From his rim-protecting prowess (five blocks) to his unexpected offense (14 points on seven of nine shooting), the veteran who wasn’t healthy for the Warriors’ 2014 postseason run was huge.
What worked for Rockets: You have to give it to Dwight Howard. After suffering a left knee bruise in Game 1 and being unsure if he would play in Game 2 until close to tipoff, Howard turned in a 19-point, 17-rebound performance that proved his worth to the Rockets yet again. Howard finished a monstrous alley-oop from Harden with 33 seconds left that brought Houston to the brink of a series split.
SOURCE: Sam Amick