By EDDIE G. ALINEA
This was how Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni could only describe his team’s 13-point 106-119 setback to the NBA tile-defending Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their Western Conference finals date Monday at the Red Nation’s home turf Toyota Center.
D’Antoni attributed the Rockets’ loss to “mental mistakes” — turnovers, poor defensive switches, imprudent offensive judgment — and to Warrior Kevin Durant’s phenomenal performance.
“KD, he’s tough. Obviously, tonight, “ D’Antoni told journalists during the traditional post-game media conference. “You can live with that. (But) you can’t live with that and make mental mistakes.”
It’s only Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, but one can’t escape seeing that devastation on the faces and in the body language of the Rockets with still 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter and down by 10 points.
By that time, it was obvious the Rockets had no interest in making a late push. They conceded the game to the Warriors as they confined themselves, that early, to thinking what to do in Game 2 two days from then.
It wasn’t even the Warriors’ best game, the matter of factly.
The Warriors had Durant, who provided the big difference in their Game 1 win that, likewise, negated the Rockets’ home court advantage for securing the top seeding after the regular season. That simple.
The Rockets might have a couple of top guns in and future Hall of Famers Chris Paul and James Harden, but they don’t have anyone who can defend against Durant one-on-one. The Warriors exploited that glaring mismatch time and time again.
D’Antoni’s defenders couldn’t double-team Durant — lest he passes the ball to a wide-open and nearly-as-lethal teammates. No Rocket can prevent a 7-footer with the ball handling skills of a point guard, the jumper of an elite shooting guard, and the height of a center from scoring 18 of his 37 points on mid-range jump shots.
All Houston could do was try to withstand the barrage and try to outscore an offense centered around an unstoppable offensive force.
Harden scored 41 points and the Rockets jumped out to an early lead in front of a raucous home crowd, but they faded late. And the Warriors? Well, they simply never stopped scoring.
And with Klay Thompson always ready to help, Stephen curry fast recovering and Draymond Green at his best in defense and court generalship, it’s hard to imagine the outcome of the next six games being much different than Game 1.
The Warriors knew this coming even before the series started. The Rockets only found it out first-hand Monday that there’s simply no adjustment or scheme change that an opposing team can implement to stop Durant — save, as one scribe wrote, “perhaps for a collective prayer that he misses shots in bunches.” (ENDIT)