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Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson shine as Warriors take Game 1, home-court advantage from Rockets

Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson shine as Warriors take Game 1, home-court advantage from Rockets

For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Golden State Warriors opened up a playoff series without home-court advantage. It didn’t take them long to change that.

Kevin Durant torched the Houston Rockets from inside, Klay Thompson rained down fire from outside, Draymond Green took over the game on the defensive end late, and the Warriors put the hammer down on the No. 1-seeded Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on Monday night, taking an impressive 119-106 win in Game 1 of the 2018 Western Conference finals. Game 2 tips off in Texas at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

The Rockets owned the NBA’s best record during the regular season, earning the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs with their 65 wins. They pushed for six months just so they’d have the right to start and finish a potential (and hotly anticipated) conference finals against the defending NBA champs in their own gym. Golden State needed all of 48 minutes to render that moot, shooting 52.5 percent from the field as a team and riding hot nights from two of their four All-Stars to wrest away home-court advantage in the best-of-seven set.

Durant scored a team-high 37 points on 14-for-27 shooting in 40 minutes of floor time, working his way into one-on-one after one-on-one and cooking from midrange against any defender Mike D’Antoni could throw at him:

In addition to strong defensive work on Chris Paul, who followed up his tremendous Game 5 showing against the Jazz with a much more subdued outing on Monday, Thompson did his damage from a bit further out. The All-Star shooting guard went 6-for-15 from 3-point range in Game 1, scoring 16 of his 28 points after halftime, when the Warriors turned a tie game into one of their now-customary double-digit victories with 62 post-intermission points to reach escape velocity:

After a quiet end to the conference semifinals against Utah, James Harden roared in Game 1. The presumptive 2017-18 NBA Most Valuable Player gave his team everything he could on Monday, scoring a game-high 41 points on 14-for-24 shooting, including a 5-for-9 mark from 3-point range, to go with seven assists and four rebounds:

But Golden State ensured that Harden had to work overtime for every look he got in Houston’s isolation scheme. Many of them came around and over the condor-like wingspan of Durant, who opened the game as the primary defender on his former Oklahoma City Thunder buddy and haunted him throughout.

Despite Harden’s excellent work, and sound enough stat lines from fellow creators Paul (23 points, 11 rebounds, only three assists) and Eric Gordon (15 points on 6-for-13 shooting, 3-for-7 from deep), the Rockets just didn’t have enough firepower to match baskets with the defending NBA champions down the stretch, going 10-for-24 from the field and 2-for-11 from 3-point land in the fourth quarter as the Warriors pulled away.

Kerr decided to go all-in early, starting the game with the so-called “Hamptons Five” lineup — Draymond Green at center, Durant at power forward, Andre Iguodala at small forward, Thompson and Stephen Curry in the backcourt — in an attempt to put Golden State’s best foot forward. But the lineup that blew the doors off the New Orleans Pelicans last round got off to an inauspicious start, blowing a switch on its first defensive play to leave Harden wiiiiiiiiiide open from beyond the arc, allowing the Rockets to get on the board quickly:

It was a dream start for Houston: Harden scoring a pair of quick buckets, Clint Capela spiking a Durant layup, and Draymond picking up a technical foul just 67 seconds into the series for shoving Harden after a Rockets basket.

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