There is no regular season hangover for the Golden State Warriors. After finishing 73-9 to complete the best regular season campaign in NBA history, the Warriors began the playoffs exactly where they left off. Golden State blitzed the Rockets from the opening tip to run away with a 104-78 victory in Game 1 of the first round Western Conference playoff series on Wednesday in Oakland.
The Warriors led by 18 at the end of the first quarter and 27 at halftime. Houston’s 33 first half points were the fewest Golden State has allowed in a game all season. Even as Steph Curry rarely played in the second half after turning his right ankle, the Warriors enjoyed a double-digit lead until the final buzzer.
Once again, the Warriors’ three-point shooting pushed them over the top. Golden State made 10-of-25 three-pointers, good for 40 percent. Houston, meanwhile, shot just 27 percent from three (6-of-22).
Here’s three things we learned in the Warriors’ Game 1 victory:
If Steph Curry is healthy, the Warriors are on a different level than everyone else
Curry was electric in the first half, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field with five three-pointers. He was straight up embarrassing Houston’s from all over the court:
Curry just turned in one of the best regular season campaigns in NBA history on his way to his second straight MVP award. As long as his ankle is OK, the Warriors are the heavy favorites in the playoffs. It will be a major upset if any other team wins the championship.
Golden State’s defense is locked in
Everyone thinks of the Warriors as the best shooting team ever and the No. 1 offense in the NBA. While that’s true, it’s the team’s defense that has set it apart the last two years.
The Warriors finished No. 4 in defensive efficiency this season, and the defense looked fantastic in Game 1 against the Rockets. Houston shot just 35.7 percent from the field and never found a rhythm offensively all day. The Warriors also forced the Rockets into 24 turnovers.
The best sign of all for Golden State’s defense? Master foul drawer James Harden didn’t even attempt a free throw. Golden State is as disciplined as any team on the defensive end. It’s scary how good they can be on both sides of the floor.
Things have changed dramatically in the last year
A year ago, the Rockets and Warriors met in the Western Conference Finals. It was built as a matchup between the league’s two top MVP candidates in Steph Curry and James Harden. Both teams were viewed as young and up-and-coming. A year later, so much has changed.
While the Warriors just completed the best regular season ever, Houston barely made the playoffs. Harden put up great numbers offensively again, but it’s hard to believe he was ever a serious challenger to Curry for the MVP. It feels like this Golden State dynasty could just be getting started, while the Rockets might have to think about rebuilding this summer.