Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry understands he’s a primary target for James Harden when the Houston Rockets have the ball, and he seems to be just fine with that.
Houston was committed to that approach in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series on Monday, as Harden racked up 41 points while repeatedly going after Curry. Despite the tactical effectiveness, the Warriors prevailed, 119-106.
“If that’s the game plan they want to stick with, my job is just to make it as tough as possible,” Curry said. “You’ve got two great scorers over there in [Chris Paul] and James. You know how they get shots off in isolation-type situations, and they’re tough to stop. So I’m going to get scored on; they’re going to get scored on. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth.
“But as long as we — I should say, as long as I’m in the right spot at the right time and defend and just try to make it as tough as possible, I can be alright with that and just have that competitiveness that we need.”
The Rockets repeatedly got Curry — who has said lateral agility is the biggest challenge for the healing sprained MCL in his left knee — isolated on Harden by bringing Curry’s man into pick-and-rolls with Harden, forcing a switch. In 13 isolations guarded by Curry, Harden scored 17 points.
However, Harden struggled to create 3-pointers for teammates. After averaging 3.4 assists per game on 3-pointers during the regular season, Harden had none on Monday. Paul averaged 4.68 such assists during the regular season but finished with just two, as Houston assisted on only four 3-pointers all night.
Despite the results, the Rockets don’t plan to ease up on the gas pedal.
“It doesn’t matter who has a bad game, who’s missing shots, whether it’s myself or Chris or anybody,” Harden said. “Keep going. Keep shooting your shot and keep being aggressive. We’ve got this far doing that and having that mindset, so we’re just going to continue with it.”
Houston head coach Mike D’Antonio joked that Harden “needs about 55 next time” to keep up with Golden State.
Curry (18 points) and Kevin Durant (37) combined for 55 as a pair in Game 1, and Klay Thompson racked up 28 while going 6-of-15 from 3-point range. D’Antoni isn’t as worried about adjusting to Durant as he is about more attainable goals, like limiting Thompson’s space to shoot and improving defensive rotations.
“He’s one of the best scorers ever, right?” D’Antonio said of Durant. “I thought he was extremely good. But we can withstand that. We can’t withstand turning the ball over, missing layups, them getting out [in transition]. Klay Thompson got up 15. We can’t give him 15 3s. We’re switching everything and staying off for that reason.
“...KD’s going to be KD, and he’ll be really good. I thought PJ did all he could do. Trevor did all he could do. I thought Clint guarded pretty well. So he’s that good.”
—Field Level Media