Why scrappy Game 1 win vs. Rockets was Warriors' best-case scenario


Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors have been consistently inconsistent throughout the season, so it is always hard to predict how their energy and effort level will be during their next 48 minutes of action. However, I'd venture to say that the Warriors' win in Game 1 of the series was the best-case scenario for the team.

First of all, no one re-injured themselves (or their ankles) and it looks like players left the game unscathed. Second, the Warriors can clearly see the areas where they need to improve. The reckless and unnecessary turnovers killed any momentum throughout the game and gave the Rockets too many chances.

Secondly, Dubs players -- Steph Curry especially -- also can cut down on the reaching, which is always an issue when playing Houston.

And third, and I believe most importantly, the Warriors had to fight and scrap for their victory. If the Warriors had won the game in blowout fashion, I'd be concerned that they would take their foot off the pedal and become more vulnerable in Game 2. However, now they know the level of intensity they need to bring to the game to beat an opponent like the Rockets, so there isn't any time for apathy or lethargy.

Sunday's win should be a great motivator to the team to be alert and ready for a dogfight in Game 2.

Let's check in on how a couple of the individual Warriors are faring:

Kevin Durant has scored 30+ points in five consecutive games for the first time (playoffs or regular season) since the 2017 NBA Finals.

Durant is playing basketball better than anyone in the world right now. If you watch the game, it is easy to see. But the numbers are just as revealing. Over the last five games, Durant is averaging 40 points on 55 percent shooting overall, including 40 percent from deep.

He has willed the Warriors to some hard-fought wins with his exceptional scoring ability from anywhere on the court -- very reminiscent to his first NBA Finals MVP campaign. During the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant averaged 35 points per game on 56 percent shooting and 47 percent from long-range. 

One aspect that has been overlooked a bit during this incredible run has been Durant's elite defense. During the regular season, like the rest of his teammates (perhaps sans Klay Thompson), Durant was prone to some defensive lapses and had games where his effort was not fully there. But for the majority of the playoffs so far, he has been completely locked in.

KD has been staying in front of quicker guards -- using his length to disrupt the opponents' spacing -- contesting shots from all over the court, protecting the rim, staying aware and focused on the weak-side and ready to help or rotate at any moment. 

The Warriors need to keep feeding Durant the ball and if he keeps playing this way, we might be witnessing one of the most historic individual playoff runs in recent memory. 

Draymond Green has scored double-digit points in eight of the last 11 games

Back in 2015-16. when Draymond averaged 14 points per game, this would not be something to write home about. But with the addition of Kevin Durant a few years ago, Draymond's scoring ability has been less and less of a necessity, as he has become more of a playmaker.

Through the first 62 games played this season, Draymond averaged 7.2 points per game and only scored 10+ points in 15 of contests. Over the last four regular-season games plus the seven playoff games, Draymond is averaging about 12 points per game. 

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Most of his points are coming around the hoop, as he is picking times to be aggressive and attack a defense so heavily concentrated on stopping the big scoring trio of Durant, Curry, and Klay. In fact, over the last five games, Draymond has not made a three-point shot -- going 0-for-12. Although the Warriors are at their best when Green is at least able to keep a defense honest by being able to hit from deep, he has still found ways to be an offensive threat.

His scoring increase has not taken away from his overall game either. In the playoffs, Green is averaging eight rebounds and eight assists per game while playing his usual exceptional defense. He has been a difference-maker thus far in the postseason, and the Warriors will need him to stay this way if they intend to make a long run towards a title. 

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