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Analysis: Warriors play dominant defense in Game 2, earn 115-109 win over Houston Rockets

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Led by Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Warriors hold the Rockets’ offense in check and take a 2-0 series lead in the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After all the chatter about officiating following the Warriors’ Game 1 win over the Houston Rockets, everyone was looking forward to Game 2 at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night so that actual basketball would be the focus of our collective attention.

In the series’ second game, the officiating did, thankfully, take a backseat to the game that was played. As Warriors head coach Steve Kerr put it in his postgame press conference, “I didn’t even notice the officiating, I don’t think anybody did. And that’s the best compliment you can give them.”

Yes, there were some subplots that took our attention off the actual court, specifically Stephen Curry suffering a dislocated middle finger on his left hand. But by and large this was a game in which the prevailing story was going to be the game itself.

The Warriors combine together energetic defense and timely offensive outbursts in Game 2 on their way to the 115-109 win over the Rockets. That win gave the Warriors a commanding 2-0 series lead in this Western Conference Semifinals matchup as the action shifts to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday night.

Playoff Andre is officially a thing

For the second game in a row, Andre Iguodala was in the Warriors’ starting lineup as head coach Kerr elected to get the vaunted Hamptons 5 lineup on the floor as early as possible. Once again, Iguodala turned back the clock and played another outstanding game, looking like a player in his prime rather than a seasoned veteran.

Playing 32 minutes, Iguodala 16 scored points against the Rockets, including three points on this shot early in the third quarter that pushed the Warriors’ lead to 13 points.

The spring in Iguodala’s step that was so apparent in Game 1 of this Western Conference Semifinals series was there again in Game 2. You saw that on this dunk, one that came as the Warriors responded to the Rockets cutting their lead to just three points midway through the fourth quarter.

Game 2 was Iguodala’s fifth game this postseason with 10+ points, something he did just 11 times in the entire 2018-19 regular season.

In addition to those 16 points, Iguodala finished Tuesday night’s win with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. 4 of Iguodala’s rebounds were offensive rebounds as the Rockets did not account for him as he kept plays going and gave the Warriors multiple chances to score.

But perhaps Iguodala’s most important contribution to the Warriors victory effort was his defense on James Harden. Iguodala was one of the defenders who frequently matched up with the defending MVP and he did a great job containing Harden.

The Warriors kept Harden from catching fire for the second consecutive game. Harden scored 29 points in Game 2 while shooting 9/19 from the field and only getting to the free-throw line 8 times.

A quick word on eye injuries

I would be remiss if I did not bring up the fact that Harden was inadvertently hit in the face by Draymond Green early in the first quarter and suffered a lacerated eyelid. Harden returned to the game and played minutes but it was certainly something that was a part of the narrative of this game and that affected him to some degree.

That said, I would also like to bring up the fact that Steve Nash played in and won a playoff game with his eye looking like this:

Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs, Game 4 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That puts things in perspective for me. It’s why I’m more inclined to say that it was the Warriors’ defense that led to another underwhelming game from Harden rather than any injury.

More evidence that Klay Thompson belongs on an All-Defensive team

Another player who took a few turns guarding Harden was Klay Thompson. Thompson, like Iguodala, defended Harden well, doing so without fouling and sending him to the free-throw line. That defense pressure also forced Harden into making errors and the 2018 MVP finished Game 2 with six turnovers. As a team, the Rockets turned it over 18 times against the Warriors, which led to 24 Warriors’ points.

But Thompson’s great defense wasn’t just limited to the time spent on Harden. The Warriors’ team defense was very strong and they all did a great job rotating and switching in Game 2. This meant Thompson occasionally had to deal with someone bigger than him. You saw that here as he does a great job defending Clint Capela, who thought he had a wide-open lane to the basket for a dunk.

Thompson also came up with some key shots, like this one in the third quarter during a run when the Warriors increased their lead to 15.

Thompson finished the Game 2 victory with 21 points and a plus/minus of +17, which was tied for the highest in the game with Iguodala. Though 21 points on 8/18 shooting (and 3/9 from three-point range) isn’t what we think of when we think of a great Thompson game, the combination of offense and defense was stellar and vital to the Warriors getting a win in Game 2.

Playoff Draymond, also officially a thing

The third member of the Warriors’ impressive defensive triumvirate was Green. Green’s energy on the defensive end in Game 2 was through the roof, whether it was deal with a perimeter player like Harden or a big man like Capela. The Warriors’ defense usually goes as Green goes. On Tuesday night, Green was locked in defensively and so too were the rest of the Warriors.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
Draymond Green’s energy and emotion were key to the Warriors getting the Game 2 win over the Houston Rockets
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Green also contributed some offense, scoring 15 points in Tuesday night’s win. 7 of Green’s points came in the game’s first quarter as the Warriors surged to a nine-point lead after the game’s first twelve minutes.

In addition to those 15 points, Green also had 12 rebounds and 7 assists in the victory. One of those assists came on this play, in which Green found Curry for the three-pointer.

Like Iguodala, Green was also a force on the offensive glass as he had 5 offensive rebounds against the Rockets, which helped the Warriors attempt 14 more field goals than the visitors from Houston. It was another great all-around game from Green, finishing just three assists shy of the triple-double.

While Green’s regular season was up-and-down, in the playoffs he’s shown that he has another gear and that’s a big reason why the Warriors have a 2-0 lead in this series against the Rockets.

Durant puts the game away

Kevin Durant could drink some coffee after Tuesday night’s Game 2 win. You know why? Because he was the closer and...

Durant didn’t display the stunning efficiency we saw in the opening-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. But in Game 2, Durant was yet again the Warriors’ most consistent offensive force, particularly in second half of the game as the Warriors tried to put the game away and get out of Oracle Arena with the win.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
Chris Paul can only look at Kevin Durant and wonder how someone can be that great of a closer in postseason games.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Durant scored 17 of his 29 points in the second half. Nine of Durant’s second-half points came in the fourth quarter, as the Rockets made one final run to try and steal the game. Durant came up with big shots like that preserved the Warriors’ advantage and sealed the win for the defending champs.

With the team playing tenacious defense while Durant and Curry knock down big shots, the Warriors look pretty tough to beat even as the series moves to Houston and a must-win Game 3 for the Rockets.