Rock­ets refuse to hang their heads

Hous­ton re­bounds might­ily from Game 1 loss

Manila Bulletin - - Sports News -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AFP) — The Hous­ton Rock­ets bounced back with a vengeance on Wed­nes­day, powering past the NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors 127-105 to level their Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals series at one game apiece.

Hous­ton’s Most Valu­able Player can­di­date James Harden scored 27 points and Eric Gor­don added 27 off the bench as five play­ers scored in dou­ble fig­ures for a Rock­ets team chas­tened by a 119-106 series-open­ing de­feat on their home floor on Mon­day.

“To­tal team ef­fort,’’ Harden said. “We played harder and smarter than game one. That was the only dif­fer­ence.’’

The Rock­ets sig­nalled their in­ten­tions early. Their seven fast-break points in the open­ing quar­ter more than dou­bled the three they mus­tered in all of game one.

Hous­ton con­nected on three-of10 from three-point range in the first pe­riod while the War­riors were ze­ro­for-seven and coughed up seven turnovers. Up 26-21 af­ter one quar­ter, the Rock­ets wouldn’t trail from there. They led 64-50 by half­time, with four play­ers al­ready in dou­ble fig­ures.

Rock­ets coach Mike D’An­toni said there was no ma­jor change in strat­egy – just more in­ten­sity and bet­ter ex­e­cu­tion from a Hous­ton team that led the league with 65 reg­u­lar-sea­son wins.

“We played harder, we got into them,’’ D’An­toni said. “We didn’t have that same in­ten­sity in that first game. Our guys are great, they learned from it, snapped back and did the job.’’

Kevin Du­rant led the War­riors with 38 points, but Stephen Curry was the only other Golden State player in dou­ble fig­ures with 16.

Curry con­nected on just seven of 19 shots from the floor, mak­ing just one of eight three-point at­tempts.

Over­all the War­riors were just nine of 30 from three-point range. They fin­ished the game with 15 turnovers – 11 of those com­ing be­fore half­time, by which time most of the dam­age was done.

PJ Tucker, who scored just one point in game one, scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half for Hous­ton. Trevor Ariza, an­other who strug­gled in game one, added 19 points and Chris Paul scored 16 for the Rock­ets.

“De­fen­sively we were more ag­gres­sive. We were smarter,’’ said Harden, whose Rock­ets travel to Oak­land for game three on Sun­day with re­newed con­fi­dence.

“We still made some mis­takes that we can get bet­ter at,’’ Harden said. “We know how tough it is to win (at Golden State) but we’re ready for it.’’

The win­ners of the series will face ei­ther the Cleve­land Cava­liers or Bos­ton Celtics in the NBA Fi­nals. The Celtics lead the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals 2-0.

Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors, right, re­acts af­ter they were de­feated 127105 by the Hous­ton Rock­ets in Game 2 of the NBA Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nals yes­ter­day at the Toy­ota Cen­ter in Hous­ton. (AFP)

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