James Harden had arguably the best statistical game of the playoffs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday. He had 38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and a block, falling one assist shy of what would have been a brilliant triple-double.
Harden probably isn’t losing much sleep over that last assist, but the last shot of Game 2? Probably.
That’s because there was no last shot. With his team trailing 99-98, Harden had a chance to win the game, but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson smothered him and forced a turnover.
No shot. No win. Houston down 2-0.
Are the Warriors in total control of this series?
“Well, I wouldn’t say they have control, but I think they’re going to win it in six or seven games,” San Francisco Bay Area sports columnist Art Spander said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think they’re the better team. But this is playoff basketball. Kevin McHale said there’s nobody I’d rather have the ball in his hands than our best player, James Harden, and he stumbled as he drove to the basket. Those things happen. The ball gets loose and Klay Thompson whacks it away and the Warriors hang on for a one-point win. But this is just classic NBA playoff basketball – two good teams pushing and shoving and battling. No fights, but boy, it’s a great game. The fans, they’re sort of in disbelief. The Warriors have a 17-point lead and they’re used to seeing the Warriors win. They only lost three games all year (at home), and all of a sudden they’re trailing after leading by 17. But they manage to come back and pull it out.”
The series now shifts to Houston for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday, respectively. Both games tip at 9 p.m. ET.
“I expect the Rockets will win at least one, maybe two,” Spander said.
Ultimately, Spander expects the Warriors to advance to the Finals, but he does not think they’re invincible.
“Yeah, I think they can lose,” Spander said. “I don’t think the Rockets will beat them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes seven games. I’ve been around a long time. I covered the Warriors the last time they won the championship – 40 years ago. Basketball is very strange. You know that. A guy can throw up a 25-footer, bang, game’s over. So you win on defense, and you win on a little bit of luck. But the Warriors play pretty good defense. They got obviously Curry. He’s a great player. Scored 33 tonight.”
He had to. Harden scored 38. It was a battle of MVP versus MVP runner-up. Curry scored 33.3 percent of Golden State’s points; Harden scored 38.8 percent of Houston’s. No other player for either team scored 20 points, and only one – Dwight Howard (19) – scored more than 15.
“I didn’t realize how good James Harden was,” Spander said. “He is unstoppable.”