Up 15. Down 15. If there is a team more explosive offensively than the Rockets, it is their opponent in this Western Conference Finals. In game one, these two offensive powerhouses exchanged punches right down to the end when the Rockets finally fell to the home team by four, 110-106. On the road in the playoffs, the goal of most teams is to stay close until the fourth quarter and try to steal one at the end. The Rockets came close.
Las Vegas odds declared the Rockets odds of winning at 7 to 1. That's a remarkable number considering these are the top two seeds in the Western Conference. But, such is the mystique of this Warriors team, so loaded with talent and led by the league MVP in Steph Curry, who was brilliant against the Rockets in the first game of the series. But, the runner up in the MVP race, James Harden, came back with a near triple double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists).
What the Rockets learned in this game is that the Warriors are very, very good, but they can certainly be beat. What fans learned is they may need a couple hours after each game to unwind.
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The entire range of emotions was on display in this first game Tuesday night. From the highs of a 15-point lead to the lows of a 25-6 run by the Warriors, it was a roller coaster ride for fans. In the end, it was also a close game that ended in a loss. If we get more games like this, it could be a very stressful series for fans, win or lose.
For Rockets players, game one and the series as a whole must serve as a learning experience. They have clearly grown over the course of these playoffs and that must continue. Teams like the Warriors are going to drive them crazy. They score in bunches and they hit huge shots. They thrive on points they scored off of turnovers (they had 20 of those in game one), many of which come on fast breaks (28 fast break points Tuesday night). They can turn games around in a hurry.
But, so can the Rockets as evidenced by game six against the Clippers and the 11-0 run in the fourth quarter of game one in Oakland that nearly led to a win. To get over the hump against a Golden State team that is now 5-0 against them this season, they have to make shots themselves, play defense and, most importantly, keep their composure.
It is unlikely fans will be able to do the same, but that is why they are fans.