For a team that went 39-2 at home in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors came out uncharacteristically flat in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. They trailed by seven points after the first quarter and by 16 midway through the second.
Then they went on a 25-6 run in seven minutes to take the lead before halftime, eventually winning 110-106.
“The huge run before the half, I thought, was vital for what they needed to do to get themselves back into the ballgame emotionally,” TNT NBA analyst Brent Barry said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think Steve (Kerr) was really upset with the type of competitiveness that they showed in the first quarter. They just were not sharp and they didn’t seem to bump guys or be on cutters. And then the second quarter, responding in that way gave them a ton of confidence to get themselves in the second half at least mentally.”
Whatever switch came on for the Warriors, it needed to be flipped. For the first 17 or 18 minutes of the game, they looked dazed, listless.
“People think that’s all rhetoric,” Barry said, “but that does happen where teams just need to get woken up. You need to splash some cold water on your face or somebody needs to slap you around. For the Warriors in the second quarter to respond, that was them standing in front of the mirror splashing the water on their face.”
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green had excellent performances Tuesday. Curry had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Green had 13 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block, much of it coming from the 5-spot.
“It’s been their most effective lineup because they can do so many things on the offensive end,” Barry said of putting Green at center. “But defensively, his ability to guard bigger guys in terms of front and activity behind and reaching in with good hands and grabbing rebounds and push on the break was massive. For the Rockets, I felt like they played a lot more comfortable with Dwight out of the game, to be perfectly honest with you. It hurts them defensively, but their flow offensively just was much better with Dwight off the court. Then it was just Steph Curry taking care of business late in the game.”
And late in the first half. Curry’s got-him-on-a-string buzzer-beater over Clint Capela sent the Warriors into the break on a high note.
Neither Doug Gottlieb nor Barry has ever seen a player take – and make – more difficult shots than Curry.
“No, no,” Barry said. “We always talk about guys who get into a zone on the offensive end and everything they’re throwing up is going in, and they just can’t miss from wherever it is that they’re shooting. Rex Chapman had games like that. I think Reggie (Miller) had games like that. But the way that Strph does it is, he kind of starts the game in that mode. It always potentially is there. He’s going to shoot, and at any time – wherever he shoots from – you expect that that ball is going in. And it’s so fun – so fun – to watch.”
Unless you’re the Rockets.
Game 2 is Thursday in Oakland at 9 p.m. ET.