The “must-win game” is definitely one of the most over-used terms in the sports talking head vernacular, but Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals had that feel to it for the Houston Rockets.
On its surface, it seems ludicrous to label just the second game in a best-of-seven series as “must-win,” but given the way Game 1 went and the road the Rockets have ahead following Game 2, it’s not such an outlandish declaration.
Maybe the Rockets weren’t at their very best in Game 1, but it’s not like they played poorly either — they were merely defeated in decisive fashion by a Golden State Warriors team with more talent and a superior style of play. While the Rockets’ offense was effective playing an iso-ball style, in the end, it was simply no match for the excellent ball movement of the Warriors.
In Game 1, the Rockets had no answer, defensively, for Warriors star Kevin Durant, and with fellow all-stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all clicking (backed by strong play off the bench from Shawn Livingston, David West and Nick Young) it’s just unfair for any team to try to win against them.
One of the flaws in Game 1 that the Rockets can’t afford to continue to spill over into the rest of the series was taking too much time to set up their iso-ball offense — the longer the Warriors have a chance to get set on defense, the better for them.
Going forward, the Rockets will have to be more aggressive on defense, too. Forcing turnovers and getting transition buckets is one way to topple a team that, otherwise, is pretty much superior in every way when at full strength and playing with 100 percent effort.
The Game 2 win breathes new life into a series with the potential to be great, but that saw that excitement dampened after Game 1.