Are you familiar with the hunting tactics of the deep sea anglerfish? It is truly a terrifying sight to behold. Its gaping jaws are born from nightmares, filled with jagged teeth. Its stomach seems bottomless, capable of swallowing much larger prey. But perhaps the most curious thing about this monster is the way it lures its victims into swift death. You see, it has a protruding fishing rod known as an “esca,” covered in bacteria that glows in the dark.
The anglerfish emits a flashing light into the heavy darkness of the deep sea to entice the big eyes of hungry squid and other deep sea dwellers into a cruel trap. The other sea creatures swim over thinking they are sneaking up on a meal, and the last thing they see are those terrifying jaws opening up to consume them.
This game of deception more often than not leads to the death of that unfortunate, hungry prey. Such is the way of life in the deep sea and also, it would appear, in the deep splash of the 2018 Western Conference finals.
What do the Warriors have to do with anglerfish?
The blinding glory of offensive pyrotechnics and defensive magnificence from the Golden Empire radiate a glittering luminescence over the NBA. Can you blame these poor Houston Rockets for lustfully chasing after that shining beacon of basketball ecstasy? When Daryl Morey confessed that the Chris Paul/James Harden/P.J. Tucker iteration of the Rockets were birthed from an obsession to defeat the reigning champions, I sighed. Even Stevie Wonder could see his desperate plan:
1. Get two future NBA Hall of Famers to handle the brunt of the decision making (Paul and Harden).
2. Cobble together a long, versatile lineup that can defend multiple positions (Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute provide this supposedly).
3. Shoot hella three-pointers (the Rockets broke the NBA record for most threes made in a season)
4. Beat the Warriors’ regular season record to gain home-court advantage (Rockets won 65 games this season, securing the #1 seed for the playoffs, and defeated the championship hangover Dubs 2-1 in their regular season matchup.)
When the teams met in Game 1 for what was the most watched Western Conference opener in the history of the NBA, the Rockets were finally directly in front of that mysterious, pulsing, brightness they had hungered for. They didn’t realize that, in fact, they were the on the menu for a calculated predator. By the time the jaws closed around them in a 119-106 Warriors’ victory, it was too late to protect that home-court advantage they had so desperately fought for.
The iso heavy Rockets are relying on spectacular hero-ball from a star with a history of running out of gas, against the best defense in the playoffs. Wow.
The Warriors have to keep the Rockets’ “others” from getting involved again and limit turnovers to keep from giving Houston easy buckets. If Harden gets 40, but no other Rockets are getting involved, the Rockets will lose by double-digits again.
We will see what adjustments Houston makes defensively, but they’d better be amazing. Stephen Curry hasn’t even activated “Deep Blue Sea” mode yet because he’s having fun distributing the ball and watching his teammates gorge themselves on the Rockets’ helpless defenders.
I predicted a sweep before the series began, so it stands to reason I’ve got the Warriors winning Game 2. Still, the Rockets will be emotionally charged at home in a must-win situation. If the Warriors aren’t sharp, they could get lit up like they did in Game 3 versus New Orleans, or the two defeats they suffered to Houston during the regular season.
However, if the champs are locked in and feeling greedy...Houston will be swallowed alive.
Warriors 111, Rockets 100
Who: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
What: Game 2, 2018 Western Conference Finals
When: 6 p.m. PST
Where to watch: TNT