Rockets rock to level Western finals with Warriors

AFP
The Houston Rockets ramped up the intensity, powering past the NBA champions Golden State Warriors 127-105 to level their Western Conference finals series at one game apiece.
AFP

The Houston Rockets ramped up the intensity on Wednesday, powering past the NBA champions 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 pulled down 10 rebounds. Eric Gordon added 27 off the bench as five players scored in double figures for a Rockets team chastened by a 106-119 series-opening loss on their home floor on Monday.

“Total team effort,” Harden said. “We played harder and smarter than Game 1. 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 1.

Houston connected on 3-of-10 from 3-point range in the first period while the Warriors were 0-for-7 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 as they stepped up the pace and tightened the defensive screws.

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.

“I don’t want to be cantankerous,” D’Antoni said. “You have one of the best offenses of all time, at least, with Golden State and we’re trying to prove we’re up there with them. You’re not going to come in and change the way you play.

“We are who we are. We just did it better and longer.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the Rockets’ energy made all the difference. “I just think this game was a matter of the Rockets bringing the force that’s necessary to win a game and we didn’t,” Kerr said.

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

Game 3 is in Oakland, California, on Sunday.

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