For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Golden State Warriors on Monday opened a playoff series on the road. Through the first half of Game 1 in their Western Conference finals matchup against the Houston Rockets, they handled the adversity well and entered the break tied, 56-56.
The Warriors’ decrying a lack of respect has become something of an inside joke over the last four seasons, with their players constantly convincing themselves that the world has somehow doubted them despite two championships in the last three seasons. But they came into Game 1 as an underdog almost across the board, which Kerr joked about in his pregame news conference.
“I’m taking the Warriors at +1½,” he deadpanned.
Kerr, who referenced the myriad stories on Monday about the United States Supreme Court’s decision that appears to have opened the door for states to legalize gambling, continued by saying, “I guess now I’m allowed to announce my picks for the week. Stay away from Boston tomorrow, you’ve got to be careful on those Game 2s.”
While Adam Silver, in his role as the N.B.A.’s commissioner, has held a much more welcoming view of betting than that of his counterparts in other major sports, Kerr joked that his comments would get him in trouble.
“Adam Silver on Line 2,” he said. “I’m about to get fined.”
It looked like the confidence might be a little misplaced early in the game. Houston’s James Harden hit a wide-open 3-pointer on the Rockets’ first possession of the game, and Clint Capela followed that on the other end of the court with a volleyball-like spike of a shot attempt by Golden State’s Kevin Durant. Draymond Green picked up a technical foul for shoving Harden just 1 minute 7 seconds into the first quarter, and Andre Iguodala headed to the bench with two fouls after just over four minutes of work. At that point Golden State was already down, 12-4.
But as they have done so often in the past, the Warriors fought back with offensive efficiency from Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant, and defensive tenacity by the entire lineup. A brief injury absence by Harden after a collision with Kevon Looney certainly did not hurt, as the Warriors outscored the Rockets 6-0 with Harden on the bench.
Despite being tied at halftime, the Warriors are in a somewhat precarious position going into the second half as Green and Iguodala are playing with three fouls each. And, with the technical Green picked up for the shove of Harden, along with his penchant for arguing with referees, he is under a constant threat of ejection.
But regardless of how things play out in the game, Kerr’s Houston counterpart, Mike D’Antoni, did not seem to think his team was rightly considered the favorite coming into the series.
“With the right amount of fear and the right amount of confidence, obviously we’re the underdog,” he said.
“When you go against the champ, you’ve got to knock them out,” he continued. “But I do like who we are and what we’ve done and where we can go.”