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The Houston Rockets were the best team in the NBA in the regular season.
They played like it Wednesday night Marquise Goodwin Jersey , using a balanced scoring attack to rout the Golden State Warriors 127-105 and even the Western Conference finals at one game apiece.
James Harden and Eric Gordon each scored 27 points on a night Houston had five players score 16 points or more.
”We can beat anybody, anywhere at any time playing the way we play,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Rockets didn’t trail after the first quarter and led by double digits for most of the night. They head to Oakland, California for Game 3 on Sunday night feeling much better after rebounding from a deflating 119-106 loss in the series opener.
P.J. Tucker added a playoff career-high 22 and Trevor Ariza had 19 as both bounced back after struggling in Game 1. Tucker had just one point in that game and Ariza scored eight, but was limited on defense after collecting his fifth foul early in the third quarter.
”I never worry about my offense … it’s all on defense,” Tucker said. ”If we get stops we’ll be able to run. It changes the game and it changes the way we play and we know that.”
Kevin Durant had 38 points after scoring 37 in the opener, but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for just 24 points after the pair went for 46 in Game 1.
Houston wasn’t able to slow down Durant, but did a much better job of limiting open 3-pointers by Thompson and Curry, and the two made just 3 of 12 attempts.
”They were desperate tonight and played like it, and we weren’t and it showed Andy Levitre Jersey ,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
The Warriors made three free throws to get within 11 early in the fourth quarter before the Rockets scored the next 11 points, with 3s from Gordon, Tucker and Harden to make it 111-89 with about 6 1/2 minutes to play.
Durant made a basket after that, but Houston scored the next eight points to extend the lead to 119-91 with about five minutes left.
The Warriors got frustrated in that stretch, with Durant getting a technical for shoving Harden in the back and Draymond Green pushing Ariza out of bounds seconds later. It was then that Kerr sent all of his starters to the bench for good.
Gordon came off the bench to make six 3-pointers, Tucker tied a playoff best with five and Harden added three.
”They were more settled tonight and they hit timely shots,” Durant said. ”The first quarter was still the most important part of the game. Eric Gordon hit two big 3s and that kind of settled them in. Those shots did it for them.”
Houston avoided losing consecutive games for the first time this postseason and the Warriors lost in the second game of a playoff series for the first time since the 2015 NBA Finals, snapping a 10-game winning streak in such games.
”We got outplayed the whole game … we got it handed to us,” Kerr said. ”You can look at it any way you want … and parcel it out, but it didn’t matter who we had out there tonight we got beat.”
Houston led by as many as 19 in the first half and was up 64-50 at halftime. The Warriors cut it to 74-64 with five quick points from Durant Lance Alworth Jersey , but the Rockets opened it back up to 89-72 when Gordon made an off-balance layup before crashing to the court while being fouled and made the free throw.
The Rockets were up by 16 to start the fourth quarter but Golden State got within 98-86 with about 10 minutes left. Curry had five points in that span, including his first 3 after missing his first six attempts of the night.
Curry finished with 16 points and Thompson was 3 for 11 for his eight points.
Warriors: It was Durant’s 19th straight playoff game with at least 20 points. … Curry made one 3-pointer to extend his NBA playoff record of 81 straight playoff games with at least one 3-pointer. … Durant and Curry were Golden State’s only players with more than 10 points.
Rockets: Houston improved to 8-0 this postseason when leading after three quarters. … Houston made 16 of 42 3-point attempts. … Paul finished with 16 points.
A LITTLE SHORT
Grammy Award-winning rapper Lil’ Wayne took the Rockets’ first shot for charity before the game. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the 5-foot-5 Wayne’s shot was a little short. The New Orleans native, who has attended several playoff games in Houston this postseason, still received a loud ovation from the crowd.
THEY SAID IT
Curry on Durant: ”He’s been amazing. He’s making plays. He’s just aggressive and I think we all need to feed off that, the focus and determination.”
After Game 3, the teams will play Game 4 on Tuesday night in Oakland before returning to Houston for Game 5 on Thursday.
The Atlanta Falcons enter the offseason forced to address this startling new reality: Defense is the team’s new strength.
That means there are new concerns on offense.
Only one year after Atlanta led the league in scoring in its 2016 Super Bowl season, the offense was no better than middling in the league.
It was appropriate that a season of regression on offense – and improvement on defense – ended with a scoreless second half in a 15-10 divisional round playoff loss at Philadelphia on Saturday.
First-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian was the easy target to blame for Atlanta’s sharp decline in scoring , but there were other problems.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman each missed time with concussions. Left guard Andy Levitre was placed on injured reserve before a wild-card win over the Rams with a triceps injury.
Quarterback Matt Ryan couldn’t repeat his 2016 MVP production. Julio Jones was held to only three touchdown catches – his low total since having two in 2013 Kirk Cousins Jersey , when he played only five games. He couldn’t catch a last-chance, fourth down pass in the end zone from the Eagles 2.
The Falcons tumbled from first to 15th in scoring.
”I think that’s certainly something that we have to look at and evaluate this offseason,” Ryan said. ”There were too many times that we were a little bit inconsistent.”
While the core of the defense is young, the window is closing for the leaders of the offense. Ryan will be 33 next season – the last year on his six-year, $103.75 million contract. Jones will be 29.
Recent history provides a reason to give Sarkasian another season with the offense.
There was much talk that Ryan and Kyle Shanahan were not on the same page in Shanahan’s first year leading the offense in 2015, and Shanahan then won praise when the Falcons led the league with 33.8 points per game in 2016. The turnaround helped Shanahan land a job as San Francisco’s head coach.
Jones noted the Falcons had ”new pieces” this season, including Sarkasian.
”Everybody has to be on the same page and it takes time,” Jones said. ”It takes more than one year. … We are a much better offense than we showed for sure. That is just on us, on all of us.”
Here are some things to know about the Falcons following their 11-7 season:
FREE AGENCY: Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are expected to talk on Wednesday about their offseason plans. Decisions must be made on attempts to re-sign such key free agents as defensive tackle Dontari Poe, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and kicker Matt Bryant. Ben Garland Tavon Young Jersey , who took over for Levitre at left guard, and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel also are set to enter free agency, as is return specialist Andre Roberts and defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw.
YOUNG D: Linebackers Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell and safety Keanu Neal were the leaders of a defense which finished in the top 10 in scoring and total yards for the first time since Atlanta’s 1998 Super Bowl season. Those three players, as well as 2016 NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. and rookie Takkarist McKinley, who had sacks in both playoff games, were drafted following Quinn’s arrival in 2015.
WIN-WIN FOR QUINN: Sure, Atlanta again fell short of its first Super Bowl championship, but there was one postseason first for the franchise. Quinn is the first Atlanta coach to win at least one playoff game in back-to-back seasons. He is 32-21 in three seasons, including the playoffs.
FREEMAN MAY FACE SURGERY: Freeman told ESPN.com he finished the season with a sprained knee. He had 10 carries for only 7 yards against the Eagles despite sprained posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. He was on the injury report with a knee injury before each playoff game but the details of the injury were not known. He said he didn’t know if surgery would be needed.
STILL KICKING: The 42-year-old Bryant was good on each of his five field goals in the postseason after making 34 of 39 in the regular season. He is 12 for 12 in the postseason since joining the Falcons in 2009.
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